Veterinary Law & Common Law

Veterinary Law & Common Law
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  • 0:01 Veterinary Laws
  • 0:36 The Veterinary Practice Act
  • 1:57 Veterinary Common Law
  • 4:13 Preventing Malpractice…
  • 5:23 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
This lesson will go over the key points related to veterinary law, common law, and statutory law, and how they generally apply to veterinary medicine.

Veterinary Laws

There are many different laws that govern or are applicable to the practice of veterinary medicine. Some of these laws are very specific to veterinary medicine. Others deal with common law, some are state laws, and others are federal ones.

Veterinary law is quite complex, and there are even veterinarians who are cross-trained as lawyers. These professionals help their medical colleagues navigate the web of laws, rules, and regulations that affect veterinary medicine.

This lesson will outline the Veterinary Practice Act and veterinary common law, as well as how the latter may apply to veterinary medicine.

The Veterinary Practice Act

Veterinary laws use each state's Veterinary Practice Act as their base. The Veterinary Practice Act is a legal document that specifies the rules and regulations that govern veterinary professionals, including veterinarians and technicians. Such rules encompass many aspects of veterinary medicine, including the rules and regulations pertaining to:

  • Licensing
  • Requirements of a valid veterinarian-client-patient relationship
  • Examinations
  • Continuing education
  • And, cruelty to animals

Again, such rules and regulations will vary from state to state, but the AVMA, the American Veterinary Medical Association, has a Model Veterinary Practice Act that is used as a guide for what each state's Veterinary Practice Act might encompass.

Since each state makes their own modification to this model or may use another model altogether, it is important you review your state's Veterinary Practice Act prior to commencing work in a veterinary clinic.

Each state will also have something similar to the Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners, which is an agency consisting of veterinary professionals and public members that interprets laws related to veterinary medicine in order to protect clients and animals by taking disciplinary action whenever necessary.

Veterinary Common Law

In addition to the veterinary law, common laws and statutory laws apply to this profession as well.

Common laws are laws that have been developed by judges and courts based on decisions about prior legal violations.

Statutory laws are laws that have been written and passed by the government, that is to say, the legislature.

So, how do these laws apply to veterinary medicine? Well, there's a lot to discuss here.

Common and statutory laws may deem that an animal is considered to be private property. That means that anyone who harms the animal may be liable for any losses stemming from the death of the animal or its medical care. Liability is a term that means legally responsible.

For example, if your neighbor throws poison into your backyard to kill your dog, that neighbor can be held liable for their actions.

These kinds of laws may apply to the veterinary world as well. For instance, if a veterinarian is found to be negligent or if malpractice is noted, the veterinarian may be liable for any damages or losses stemming from the loss of the animal's life or medical treatment.

Negligence is a failure to perform a level of care that a reasonable or competent person would have performed under similar circumstances.

Malpractice is defined as professional negligence, working below or not following the accepted standards of medical practice and care.

These sound quite similar, but they're not the same. Negligence applies to all aspects of a relationship between a client and a veterinarian. For instance, a slip and fall accident in a veterinary practice qualifies as negligence if a person is hurt because care was not taken to clean up the spill. Malpractice pertains solely to the veterinarian's medical duties.

Compensation for damages and losses are often limited to the financial cost of the animal or its medical care. Emotional damages and damages for pain and suffering often found in human medical malpractice lawsuits are rarely heard of in veterinary medicine.

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