The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) disciplinary committee has suspended a veterinary surgeon based in the county of Moray for nine months for being “misleading and dishonest” in relation to her treatment of a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel in March 2017.
The hearing for Dr Jacqueline Bohnen took place from Monday 21 to Wednesday 23 January 2019 in relation to two charges against her.
The first charge was that, between 7.30pm on Saturday 18 March 2017 and 10.30am on Sunday 19 March 2017, she failed to attend to Belle, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, in order to provide appropriate and adequate care including: assisting Belle with urination; monitoring her with a view to considering alternative treatment options; and, monitoring Belle with a view to providing her owners with an update on her condition.
In the second charge it was alleged that, between 18 March 2017 and 31 March 2017, Bohnen had said she attended to Belle on 18 March 2017 between 9pm and 10pm; on Sunday 19 March at around 6am; and on the same day around 9am, when she had not in fact done so and was therefore found to be “misleading and dishonest”.
At the hearing the committee considered a recent application from Bohnen, by email, for the hearing to be postponed as she was now based in her home country of South Africa, and said she could not apply for a visa to return to the UK until later in the year and that the internet access in her location was poor.
The college opposed Bohnen’s application and submitted its own application that the inquiry should proceed in Bohnen’s absence. The committee considered Bohnen’s application for postponement, however it ruled in favour of the college making the point that the hearing could have been attended digitally, and allowing the hearing to continue without Bohnen.
During the hearing, the committee dismissed the parts of the first charge relating to considering alternative treatment options and updating the owners in relation to Belle’s condition. The charge relating to Bohnen failing to assist Belle with urination, was however found proven, with the committee calling her representations “false and misleading”.
The committee then looked into whether Bohnen’s actions constituted serious professional misconduct both individually and cumulatively. The committee considered that Bohnen’s conduct in failing to assist Belle with urination, whilst falling below the standard to be expected of a “reasonably competent” veterinary surgeon, did not amount to serious professional misconduct.
Professor Alistair Barr, chairing the committee and speaking on its behalf, said: “The committee considers that the respondent’s dishonesty was the prime aggravating factor in this case. Although overall it could be regarded as a single incident, the committee has found that it involved the fabrication of a number of notes and clinical records in the immediate aftermath of the death of the dog, but, thereafter, the respondent continued to deny the falsity of the fabricated records that she had created up to and until the conclusion of her interview by the practice on 30 March 2017.
“During that time, the respondent had contacted the alarm company responsible for the security of the premises of the practice, to enquire whether the security system would record the times of the alarm being switched on and off. This indicated that the respondent’s dishonesty continued over a significant period of time, and that her persistence in sticking to her story became premeditated. In other words, the respondent’s conduct over this time indicated a clear attempt to deceive.”
In deciding upon the sanction, Professor Barr added: “Because of the seriousness of this case, the committee did not consider that it was appropriate to postpone judgement, take no further action, or to administer a reprimand and warning as to future conduct.
“The committee considered that the respondent’s conduct, involving significant and admitted dishonesty over a period of time, required a significant penalty, in order to protect the welfare of animals and to serve the public interest. Accordingly, the Committee has decided to direct that the respondent’s registration be suspended for a period of nine months.”
Bohnen has 28 days from being informed of the committee’s decision to lodge an appeal with the privy council.