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NSW Can I Claim Compensation from Vet for Death of Pets?

Discussion in 'Australian Consumer Law Forum' started by ForMax, 10 February 2016.

  1. ForMax

    ForMax Member

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    I took my cat to the vet's with a lump on his head. I was 10 minutes late for the appointment and was told the vet was not there. I left the cat in their care with specific instructions to call me when he returned so I could explain the situation to him. Within 20 minutes of being there, I got a call to return. I went straight away and was given the cat in his box, told that he had an abscess that had been lanced and to take him home and to keep him inside. I paid $100.

    Within an hour or returning home, the cat was bleeding profusely and I called the vet 6 times to which there was no answer. I took him to a different vet who fitted a drain in his head and kept him for two days. They were unsure as to why the cat was bleeding with no pus as an abscess usually presents and sent him home with pain meds, antibiotics and strict instructions for his care after paying a $500 bill.

    They followed up with the other vet and told me the information he gave them was 'sketchy'. When I returned to the new vet 36 hours later, they to me that he was still bleeding unusually and had to be kept. Within an hour, the cat suffered a massive bleed and had to be put down resulting in my loss of my animal, of half a day's work and yet more money.

    The vet said it was more than likely he actually had a brain tumor or a haematoma but due to the severity of the cat's condition, there was not enough time.

    Am I entitled to get a refund from the first vet and any other compensation in relation to the resulting debts I now have and the loss of my family animal?
     
  2. Sophea

    Sophea Well-Known Member

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    Hi ForMax,

    On what basis do you think you may be entitled to a refund from the first vet? If the cat had a haematoma or a tumour I doubt there is anything that could have been done to save it. So any misdiagnosis by the first vet would not have prevented its death, meaning you would have incurred the cost of having it put down regardless.

    If the second vet couldn't determine the cause of the profuse bleeding either and opted to insert a drain and keep it under supervision, then it clearly wasn't a matter of the first vet missing something that was obvious, indicating that they had been grossly negligent in the treatment of their cat.

    Simply receiving a service that does not diagnose the correct problem the first time, does not entitle you to a refund.
     
    Rod likes this.
  3. ForMax

    ForMax Member

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    Hi Sophea,

    My issue is not a return of the money for having the cat put down. I did not want him to suffer. I'm not sure if you are an animal owner or not or you are just grossly insensitive. This happened as recently as yesterday and I joined this forum for legal help to my rights and not a lecture on whether or not you think I am a good pet owner.

    I assure you I have several animals all of which are healthy and well cared for.

    My issue is that it took me barely 10 minutes to return to the vet surgery after being notified that the vet had returned as I live locally. They did not wait for me to attend before treating my cat as had been specifically agreed to when I left and the procedure had already been completed when I arrived. Therefore, the vet had time to diagnose and treat the cat in a matter of minutes which obviously wasn't plausible as the diagnosis he gave was wrong.

    The cat was not in obvious pain when I made the decision to seek professional help and after his first 'surgery' (done without anesthesia might I add) he suffered for 6 days before his life ended. Had I not sought help, he may have lived a lot longer.

    The second vet I believe does not deserve full responsibility as they acted on the advice of the first vet who gave them misinformation. They were told it was definitely an abscess and had it not been treated as such they might have had the opportunity to test for other causes. A moot point because once the cat was cut open his body could not stop the bleeding that stemmed from it.

    If you have helpful information, I would love to hear it.
     
  4. ForMax

    ForMax Member

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    I apologize for my tone in several sentences of my last reply. After rereading your comment, I see there is just a typo in 'their' cat instead of 'the' cat.

    I appreciate any input you may have and I have asked for legal help as I do believe the first vet was negligent in the fact he assumed it was an abscess by, I imagine, sight or touch only, with only a few minutes with the cat, no tests that I was made aware of conducted to confirm as such and decided to go ahead and 'treat' the cat without so much as a consultation with the owner as to the cats age, living conditions, medical history or information relating to how long the growth had been present or how the procedure would be performed etc.

    As I stated in my earlier reply other than being a little quieter than normal, my cat did not seem to be in any pain and even without immediate treatment the worst case scenario might have been that whilst waiting for test results an abscess (if it had of been) might have ruptured on its own. Not to mention that the vet communicated information that he had treated an abscess of pus which was not apparent as over the next four days there was no trace of any.

    Initial reports from the second vet were that the first vet may have accidentally cut through a crucial vein as the bleeding could not be stopped therefore hindering the second vet from performing their duties correctly as they concentrated on stopping the bleed.

    As my cat was not physically hindered in any way and was still eating and functioning normally before being taken to the vet any other condition, if it had of been discovered, might have been able to have been managed in a treatment plan that would not have resulted in such a short and painful ending.

    This was part of my reason for wanting reimbursement of the initial payment that ended up resulting in a much larger debt. The other part is that he might take more care with his future patients if he can be held accountable for his actions in this instance.
     
  5. Rod

    Rod Well-Known Member

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    ^^^^^ This.

    Sophea gave you good recommendation. The problem is not the recommendation, problem appears to be acceptance of it.
     
  6. Sophea

    Sophea Well-Known Member

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    Dear ForMax,

    I understand your first comment was based on a misunderstanding due to a typo so I won't address the bulk of it. I will, however, say that I am an animal owner and lover but this is a legal forum where you receive objection answers to legal questions, not fluff and sympathy.

    A vet owes a duty of care to carry out surgical and medical treatment of can animal with reasonable care. However, as is the case with medical negligence in humans, mistakes with diagnosis and surgery still occur, however unless the treatment given was significant below the standard expected of a reasonable practitioner or if it significantly diverged from standard practice, it cannot be classified as negligent, and no liability will arise.

    The difficulty you face in this case is (1) It is more than likely that standard practice for treating a large lump on a cat's head is to investigate it surgically and attempt to lance or remove it. (I very much doubt many pet owners would be agreeable to $100s of dollars in MRIs and X-rays up front to diagnose a possible tumour without eliminating the possibility of a much more common and minor diagnosis) (2) You cannot prove what the lump was, what caused the bleeding and what ultimately resulted in the cat's death. All you have is speculation. And because you are upset and angry at present, you are looking for someone to take the blame for your loss.

    You can write a letter to demand to the first vet, explaining the situation as you see it and providing reasons why you think he was negligent and why you should be refunded for the treatment, however, I suspect you would have limited grounds to pursue it any further.
     
  7. TKC

    TKC Well-Known Member

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    I think Sophea has isolated the key questions in this matter, so I thank her for spending her free time to advance the thread in such a thoughtful manner.

    I wonder if standard practice for treating a cat wouldn't be reliant on a consultation with the owner from the outset?

    The OP left specific instructions with the staff to meet with the vet in providing the cat's "particulars" before any procedures were to be conducted. Not being apprised of the cat's medical and non-medical history, the vet has essentially acted outside of standard practice, in treating him without all the relevant information.

    That is not to say the vet would have reached a different conclusion on diagnosis and surgery procedure by being provided his history, it may have very-well been the same conclusion the vet reached, however the engagement between the cat's owner and the vet may have resulted in a different treatment outcome for him. After all, the OP would have, in the least, had the option for a second opinion for a deeply-loved and treasured pet. It can be demonstrated that the OP was a thoughtful and responsible pet owner throughout this matter.

    I wonder if the OP was to subpoena the staff in proving that those specific instructions were made, and that the vet not only ignored them but proceeded without all of his relevant information, especially when standard practice is reliant on having such information prior to forming a diagnosis and treatment plan, that there are certainly elements of an argument of negligence in the way the vet acted, and the liability for damages/costs which resulted from such misconduct?
     
  8. ForMax

    ForMax Member

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    Thank you, Sophea, for replying and TKC, I wish you had been here to comment earlier as your comment was exactly the reasoning behind my thinking.

    It has been several weeks since this incident happened and I thought I'd comment on the outcome in case anybody was interested. With the help of the second vet surgery I attended with my cat, I approached the first vet and asked for a full refund for the cost of the surgery on my cat without my permission.

    After speaking personally to the second vet and being assured, as I had been, that the cat had no abcess and should not have been treated so quickly as such, he called me and I was offered a full refund. It seems there was a reasoning behind it also as it came out later on the same day that the vet who I was told was 'attending house calls' when I arrived with the cat for my appointment had actually been at the pub across the road collecting on his horse bets (hence why it only took him 10 minutes to return to the surgery after I had left the cat in their care).

    I did have a case of negligence and I did win my money back though I would've preferred the cat anyway. Thank you, everybody, for your input
     

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