Vet malpractice?
July 6, 2015 2:12 PM   Subscribe

A friend had a very odd experience at the vet and it's now costing him tons of money and I'm questioning my own use of the vet. What are the options?

I have a friend whose dog was hit by a car and her hind leg became dislocated. The vet offered two options: surgery (expensive) or a tight sling for a few weeks. They went with the sling. It worked well except... they also bandaged up the foot. Over the course of weeks, they brought the dog into the vet to have the bandage checked -- X bucks a pop, every two days. Vet said all was healing well.

The dog's owner smelled something off and mentioned it to the vet on the next visit and the vet found that the dog had been bandaged too tightly and had gotten some [I forget the word--necrotic or something] cells/skin (sounded gangrenous to me) and as a result, the dog lost a toe! Recovery was also now extended due to this new complication, which is costing them even more.

I think this is wrong and that the vet should comp the treatment. Apparently the vet comped the consultations, but not the bandaging labour and materials, which was $70 per visit (every two days) for many, many weeks. They're now up to almost six grand for a dislocated leg!

Here's the thing: this vet works with my vet (but isn't my vet) and I'm stunned at their response. I think it's clearly incompetence that led to the missing toe and the client should pay nothing. I'm questioning whether I should continue to bring my own dog to this vet.

To be clear: my vet was not the dog's vet. But my vet is the main vet and he has employed this incompetent vet and, presumably, made the decision on the refund.

Am I crazy for questioning all this? I quite like my vet -- my dog likes my vet -- but this whole thing creeps me the F out.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy to Pets & Animals (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I think this is wrong and that the vet should comp the treatment. Apparently the vet comped the consultations, but not the bandaging labour and materials, which was $70 per visit (every two days) for many, many weeks. They're now up to almost six grand for a dislocated leg!

The fuck?! Why is your friend paying this? This is the most ridiculous damn thing I've ever heard. If I were your friend I'd call (hopefully he's put this on his credit card?) the card company and ask for a chargeback, and start having serious no bullshit discussion with the vet about how to do this, because yeah, they need to eat some (most) of this. Absolutely unacceptable. Period. Dog sounds to be out of the woods now, thank goodness, so this can be an emotion-free chat with tangible demands. The vet can come up with an extremely discounted list of charges and invoice your friend for payment. No more shelling out hand over fist daily!!

You need to strongly recommend that your friend pursue this. Ultimately there's nothing you, personally can do about it. If the vet doesn't resolve this satisfactorily, then yes if I were you I'd find another vet. I may just find a new vet anyway, like maybe one who knows how to bandage a dog foot in a way that part of the foot doesn't die. Jesus. I understand that accidents happen, but the doubling down on the mistake and adding literal insult to injury by making your friend pay out the ass for bandaging BANDAGING, WHICH WE KNOW THEY ARE BAD AT would really chap my hide and I wouldn't want to continue my relationship with them.
posted by phunniemee at 2:37 PM on July 6, 2015 [7 favorites]

This is outrageous and major malpractice. They were the ones who applied and were paid to manage and reapply the bandaging. They caused this to occur through clear malpractice. The animal now had been subjected to an amputation due to the malpractice. The vet should pay *all* associated costs for all treatments and refund past costs and friend should pay nothing. I would not return to this vet with my own animal and I'd also let the vet know why (after my friend's animal was safely managed, preferably somewhere else).
posted by quince at 2:51 PM on July 6, 2015 [12 favorites]

This sounds terrible. How did the vets not notice a toe that needed amputation in their every other day incredibly expensive rebandaging? This is entirely on them, they should refund the cost of all those stupid bandanges and cover all the costs for the amputation and recovery.

After it's all worked out, you should leave the vet because you will never be able to trust them again. If your friend just lets it go financially you should leave the vet anyhow.

When we had to bring in my cat Gus to the vet and he died during a routine liver biopsy, the vet was so appalled that she did a necropsy and didn't charge us to find out what had happened. (Which was good, because honestly we probably would have stopped seeing them, but it was not their fault and the cat was about to die no matter what.)
posted by jeather at 2:52 PM on July 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

Your friend should document EVERYTHING and request a major sit-down with the leading vet and office manager. Absolutely no -- and why were they charging and requiring a $70 rebandaging each day and not noticing a necrotic tissue on the foot?!

They have insurance that can cover this. Your friend should absolutely NOT be paying for all of that.

And I'd write a follow-up letter to your vet (the head vet) and document why you're leaving the practice unless he can demonstrate how he's fixed the situation.
posted by barnone at 3:15 PM on July 6, 2015

While I agree this is madness and your friend should not have to pay most of that, I wouldn't be so sure that the "main" vet is aware of the situation. At least, it's not clear from the question, though it seems you are assuming the main vet knows and approved the process so far.

In case the main vet (YOUR vet) is not aware of all of this, I would send a letter (email?) detailing what you've told us, what you believe the second vet did wrong, and why your animals will no longer remain patients of his clinic if this is the way things are handled.

(This is particularly reasonable if you recommended this clinic to your friend.)
posted by Glinn at 3:17 PM on July 6, 2015

After my dog's neuter surgery, he wound up with an infection that may have been caused by the sutures. My vet felt awful and didn't charge us for any of the costs related to treating the infection, which was hundreds of dollars. And that was just a case where it may have been their fault. That's what a practice that values its patients/clients does.

That said, it seems like your friend needs to go to the main vet with the complete story and a list of the costs. The main vet should be horrified and offer financial restitution. If s/he doesn't, I would take my business elsewhere.
posted by lunasol at 4:48 PM on July 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

FYI if the main vet is unaware of this there is a huge management problem at this clinic.
posted by jeather at 5:19 PM on July 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

For crying out loud, how much would the original surgery have cost?
posted by vignettist at 5:34 PM on July 6, 2015

I would not even consider staying with your vet unless the veterinary practice comps every penny of this treatment (including the original treatment for the dislocation) for your friend. The dog lost a toe because of this vet's major mistake. It's crazy to me that they didn't immediately comp all the resultant bandaging. Comping "consultation" is really inadequate in this situation. This mistake caused pain and suffering and permanent damage to the dog, not to mention the time and energy your friend has had to put into bringing the dog back to this vet every couple days because of their mistake.

If I were your friend, I wouldn't stop until the vet had refunded all of the money. We're talking about thousands of dollars, so I would be willing to escalate to a lawyer and/or small claims court, if necessary.

In your shoes, I would probably still be inclined to leave unless this other vet got fired. At all the vet practices that I've been to, sometimes our dog would have to be seen by another vet if there was an emergent issue, someone was away, had no openings, etc. I wouldn't want to risk my dog being at the mercy of this other vet's apparent incompetence.

One other thing: I'm guessing their must be some vet licensing board with the state or something like that where you can file complaints or try to get a record of malpractice placed in their file. (I believe this exists for medical doctors, although I've never pursued something along those lines.) Your friend should consider doing this as well, although I would settle the money issue first.
posted by litera scripta manet at 7:52 PM on July 6, 2015

This is crazy, they should be comping you all care resulting from the infection that happened on their watch.

Many years ago when we adopted our first cat, we got her front declawed (I KNOW, don't judge, I would never do this now, but it was a different time when this was still uncontroversial and totally standard practice) and she wound up with a relatively rare infection in her foot as a complication. It required vet visits every week for MONTHS, careful re-wrapping, salve, antibiotics, etc.

We didn't pay a dime of any of that.

The vet deemed it their responsibility, period, because it happened on their watch. Even though actually there was no way to absolutely prove that it didn't arise after we got her to our own home. Didn't matter. Close enough to them that they took responsibility for it.

This is what a normal vet does.
posted by desuetude at 10:31 PM on July 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

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