The RCVS Disciplinary Committee has reprimanded an Anglesey-based veterinary surgeon for writing a letter on behalf of a client that dishonestly claimed that a pregnant ewe had died whilst in transit to a veterinary practice where she was employed, when in fact she had euthanised the ewe at the practice following a caesarean section.
The hearing for Dr Louise Marie Henry MRCVS took place from Monday 21 to Tuesday 22 June 2021 and involved one charge against her.
Charge 1 (A) outlined that on or around 9 January 2020 she wrote and/or signed an undated ‘To whom it may concern’ letter using practice letterheaded paper and on which she identified herself as a Member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. In the letter she confirmed that a ewe had died in transit to the surgery due to dystocia and peri-parturient stress. Dr Henry knew when writing the letter that this was factually incorrect as the ewe had been euthanised by her at the veterinary practice the day before on 8 January 2020. Charge 1(B) outlined that her conduct concerning the letter was dishonest.
The Committee heard that the ewe was lambing and brought to the practice by a client. Dr Henry was on-call at the time and advised a Caesarean section. The client agreed and Dr Henry delivered two live lambs and one dead lamb. Dr Henry was concerned about the welfare of the ewe post-surgery because of the risk of peritonitis and advised that the ewe should be euthanised. The client agreed to the ewe being euthanised and then asked Dr Henry to write a letter in which it was stated that the ewe had died in transit on route to the practice. Dr Henry agreed to write the letter in which she falsely certified that the ewe had died in transit. The letter was written on practice letterheaded paper, the letter was addressed “To whom it may concern” and was signed “Louise Henry MRCVS”.
The letter relating to charge 1 came to light on 29 January when the practice director found the letter about the ewe’s cause of death in an insurance file. The practice arranged an investigatory meeting with Dr Henry where she admitted that writing the letter was an error of judgement. When asked about her conduct, Dr Henry explained that the client had subsequently been dissatisfied with the letter she had written and asked her to change it. She refused to amend the letter and told him that it was wrong of her to have written it in the first place and that she regretted having done so.
“After careful consideration, the Committee concluded that the substantial mitigating features permitted it to take the somewhat unusual course of issuing a reprimand in a case involving dishonesty. In taking this course, the Committee attached significant weight not only to the isolated nature of the event but also to the genuine insight shown by Dr Henry and the lasting impact this event has had upon her,” Dr Martin Whiting, Disciplinary Committee Chair.
Dr Henry told the Committee that she valued integrity very highly and that she was deeply ashamed that she had been prepared to write the dishonest letter. The Committee heard several testimonials from people who had worked with or studied alongside Dr Henry, who all attested to her skill as a veterinary surgeon and that they had no concerns about her integrity and honesty. She self-reported her actions from January to the RCVS and from the outset admitted the facts of the charge. During the hearing, Dr Henry submitted that her action of dishonest false certification amounted to disgraceful conduct in a professional respect.
Dr Martin Whiting, chairing the Committee, and speaking on its behalf, said: “The Committee considered that, in this case, the aggravating features were limited and the mitigating factors extensive. There was no premeditated dishonesty or financial gain involved, there was no actual harm or risk of harm to an animal or human and this was a single incident in an otherwise unblemished 13-year career. The Committee found that the shame and remorse expressed by Dr Henry were entirely genuine. Her conduct on this occasion was entirely untypical of her practise.
“After careful consideration, the Committee concluded that the substantial mitigating features permitted it to take the somewhat unusual course of issuing a reprimand in a case involving dishonesty. In taking this course, the Committee attached significant weight not only to the isolated nature of the event but also to the genuine insight shown by Dr Henry and the lasting impact this event has had upon her. In the Committee’s assessment, a reasonable and fully informed member of the public would, in this particular case, regard a reprimand as a sanction which protected the public interest in the profession and upheld its standards.”
Please note: This news story is a summary of the hearing written on behalf of the Disciplinary Committee to assist in understanding the case and the Committee’s decision. The full findings for the case can be found here.