Some DVMs may have license-defense insurance (such as that offered by AVMA's Professional Liability Insurance Trust), but
otherwise, unless covered by a special rider, malpractice and business insurance often don't cover either the cost of legal
representation or the cost of a fine or penalty, Allen says. "Legal fees usually are charged by the hour, and several hundred
dollars per hour at that."
The emotional costs
Most veterinarians take up the profession "because they have an abiding love of animals. They're gentle, kind, genuinely sweet
people, and that's what makes my practice so rewarding," Wyner says.
"Someone like that often takes it very hard when their well-intentioned efforts are questioned," she says. "They begin to
question their own skills and ability.
"I find that I need to do some therapy in about 90 percent of my cases, trying to encourage people who are angry, frustrated,
demoralized, sad and frightened — people who never saw this coming and begin to wonder whom they can trust. They often begin
to ask themselves, 'Do I even want to work in such an onerous administrative environment anymore? This is not what I signed
up for.' "
The ongoing nightmare
State-board hearings often are protracted, lasting over several sessions and subject to many delays. "It is the nightmare
that lasts and lasts," Allen says.
Linda H. Wyner
"It's (state board action) a very invasive process that can go on for six months, a year or sometimes longer," Wyner says.
Even if an accused DVM is exonerated, the process can takes an emotional toll on the doctor and staff.
"The morale of employees almost always is impacted negatively when the boss is called to answer for a professional impropriety,"
State boards are not subject to all the same rules that apply to criminal and civil trials, Allen explains. Testimony that
wouldn't be allowed in court cases — perhaps involving speculation, conjecture, interpretation, hearsay, remarks from witnesses
of questionable credibility — often finds its way into the hearing room. Appeals are difficult and expensive. "All of this
can add up to depression on the part of the accused."
Christopher J. Allen
Wyner tells of a longtime private practitioner who became so demoralized he told her recently he's giving up the profession,
even though the original complaint against him, after a lengthy process, eventually was dismissed.