The Disciplinary Committee of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) has found a London vet not guilty of disgraceful conduct in a professional respect.

The Disciplinary Committee hearing for Sarah Lee Dantas-Holmes MRCVS took place from Monday, July 16, to Thursday, July 19, and concerned the death of a cat, Hope.

On April 19, 2017, Hope was due to undergo an operation under general anaesthetic to explore a growth inside her mouth, however, the cat died unexpectedly.

Dr. Dantas-Holmes accepted that Hope’s death was, most likely due to her failing to flush fluid through the giving set attached to an intravenous drip, leaving air in the tubing causing some air to enter Hope’s bloodstream when the cannula was placed and the giving set’s control opened.

Charges

The first set of charges relate to Dr. Dantas-Holmes’ initial phone call to Hope’s owners 10 minutes after Hope’s death, in which she told one of the owners that Hope had died because of a reaction to anaesthetic drugs.

Dr. Dantas-Holmes failed to mention that the cause of death was still to be determined; and failed to mention that a likely cause was, in fact, an air embolism or a complication relating to the intravenous drip.

Following her initial phone call to the owners, Dr. Dantas-Holmes viewed CCTV of her actions.

Afterwards, the owners came into the practice with the communications during that time constitute the second set of charges.

During this meeting, Dr. Dantas-Holmes didn’t correct her earlier statements about the cause of Hope’s death, and that she didn’t mention that there was an ongoing investigation.

The third set of charges related to Dr. Dantas-Holmes’ subsequent clinical records, in which it was alleged that she failed to include references to the findings on review of the CCTV footage of Hope’s death, and the possibility of an air embolism or complication relating to the intravenous drip.

The fourth and final set of charges were that her conduct was misleading or dishonest.

Verdict

The committee found, relating to the first set of charges, that Dr. Dantas-Holmes did tell the owners that Hope died because of a reaction to the drugs, but that given the short nature of the phone call to the owners and the distressing circumstances there was no duty to discuss the investigation, or to mention the likely cause being an air embolism.

Relating to the second set of charges, namely the communications with the owners when they came to the practice, the committee found that Dr. Dantas-Holmes did fail to mention that anaesthetic drugs might not have been the cause, and that she also failed to mention the investigation.

Dr. Dantas-Holmes had agreed with the practice manager, however, that she would not discuss the possibility of an air embolism or complication, and so that charge was not found proved.

On consideration of whether Dr. Dantas-Holmes had failed to include relevant findings in the clinical reports, the committee found both charges proved.

However, in relation to the final set of charges, the committee found that while Dr. Dantas-Holmes had misled Hope’s owners, it was unintentional, and she had not been dishonest.

Ultimately, the committee found Dr. Dantas Holmes not guilty of disgraceful conduct in a professional respect.

Stuart Drummond, chairing the committee, said: ‘The findings of this committee demonstrate that there were errors and omissions in communications with the owners.

"When communicating with a client it is the professional’s responsibility to ensure that the client has heard and understood what has been said. The importance of good and effective communication is particularly important when an unforeseen and shocking event occurs such as it did in this case.

“The particular circumstances of this case demonstrate how important it is to communicate effectively and the need for the veterinary surgeon to ensure that their clinical records for which they are wholly responsible, are complete.

“The committee concluded that its findings demonstrated a departure from professional standards but that the falling short was not so grave as to amount to disgraceful conduct in a professional respect.”