Disciplinary Committee reprimands Northern Ireland vet

1 March 2018

The RCVS Disciplinary Committee has reprimanded a County Tyrone based vet after it found a number of charges proved in relation to failing to obtain agreed consent for the euthanasia of a dog, for keeping no clinical records for that dog and for failing to reply to written questions from the owner.

The hearing for Brian Phelim Mallon MRCVS took place from Monday 12 February to Friday 16 February 2018 and concerned three separate charges against him. The first charge related to his treatment of a Labrador named Bailey on 15 September 2016 in which he was alleged to have euthanased the animal without the owner’s consent, after having been called out to her home following concerns about Bailey’s arthritis.

The second charge related to failure to keep adequate clinical records for Bailey between 14 March 2015 and 30 September 2016. The third, and final, charge related to failing to respond adequately to communications regarding Bailey’s treatment from his owner between 15 September 2016 and 6 January 2017.

At the outset of the hearing, Mr Mallon admitted the charge relating to keeping inadequate clinical records. However, he disputed the College’s evidence regarding euthanasing Bailey without his owner’s consent.  He claimed to have had previous discussions with the owner’s husband about euthanasia six months prior to the event, that he had been informed that the owner had mentioned a possible need for euthanasia in a phone call earlier that day and that, on attending the premises, the owner’s mother had mentioned a need to put Bailey down. During the course of the hearing, Mr Mallon accepted that these incidents could not have reasonably amounted to consent.

The Committee also heard and accepted evidence that the owner’s mother, who was present when Mr Mallon visited, had wished to contact her daughter to inform her about the planned euthanasia but that Mr Mallon proceeded to euthanase the animal regardless. The Committee also noted there was no contemporaneous clinical records nor any signed consent form for the procedure. Furthermore, the Committee found no evidence that there was a need to put Bailey down immediately and no reason why Mr Mallon could not have waited until the owner was present and had given consent.

Regarding the third charge, the Committee heard that the communications between Mr Mallon and the owner amounted to a telephone call on 15 September and a letter from the owner dated 16 September in which she asked a number of questions about Bailey’s treatment. The Committee accepted that, during the phone call, the owner had made a number of threats to Mr Mallon that had caused him to be fearful for himself and his property.

Furthermore, the Committee found that there were a number of points in the subsequent letter to which he could have responded and the Committee noted that, when he was giving evidence, Mr Mallon expected the owner to apologise to him and withdraw the threats before he would engage with her complaint. The Committee therefore found the charge proved.

After finding the charges proved the Committee then went on to consider whether, individually and cumulatively, they constituted serious professional misconduct. It found this to be the case in respect of all three charges.

Commenting on the first charge Jane Downes, chairing the Committee and speaking on its behalf, said: “He should have allowed the owner to come to an informed decision. He had an opportunity to obtain informed consent and he failed in this regard. By failing to take this opportunity he overrode the possibility of allowing [the owner] the right to choose whether to be present or to discuss Bailey’s prognosis.”

The Committee then went on to consider the sanction for Mr Mallon and heard from a number of clients and professional colleagues who spoke to his skill, care, passion for animal welfare and high standing in his community. The Committee also considered 30 written testimonials from clients. In mitigation, the Committee also considered Mr Mallon’s otherwise unblemished 30-year career, the fact it was a single isolated event related to one animal and the fact that there was no evidence of systemic or repeated behaviour.

Jane Downes added: “The Committee concluded that the appropriate and proportionate sanction is a reprimand in this case. The Committee is confident that Mr Mallon will not repeat the conduct identified in this case again. The Committee wishes to advise Mr Mallon of the need to reflect on the outcome of this case, the need to have clear communication systems in place at this practice that are effective so as to avoid any possibility of miscommunication.

"The Committee further advises Mr Mallon of the need to be familiar and comply with all aspects of the Code [of Professional Conduct for Veterinary Surgeons] and its associated guidance, particularly in respect of keeping clinical records, informed consent and effective complaint management.”

Note: This news story is a summary of the Disciplinary Committee's decision to help its decision. The Committee's full decision and findings are the only authoritative documents.

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