RCVS warns profession to maintain proper vet-client relationships after reprimanding a Brighton-based vet for behaving “unprofessionally and inappropriately” with a mentally ill client.
The veterinary profession has been reminded to maintain “a proper boundary between the professional and personal relationships of client and veterinary surgeon” after the RCVS disciplinary committee “severely reprimanded” a Brighton-based veterinary surgeon.
According to the college, Marie-Louise Schlemm – who at the time of her offences was working for the Coastway Veterinary Group in Brighton – “deliberately misled” a client, Ms B, as to the condition and prognosis of her 16-year-old Jack Russell as she told her the dog was dying. She is also alleged to have behaved “unprofessionally and inappropriately” in her dealings with Ms B, who suffers from mental illness.
Other allegations included:
- Ms Schlemm suggesting Ms B tell PDSA a fabricated story so she might see the dog again;
- making an offer to Ms B for her and and Ratszy to stay with her at her home; requiring Ms B to attend a supermarket car park at 12.30am to collect Ratszy; and
- taking money from Ms B other than for the purposes of legitimate veterinary treatment.
Despite the committee finding that Ms Schlemm had not led Ms B to believe Ratzy was dying, it labelled her offer of accommodation as “wholly misguided” as well as blurring “the distinction between personal and professional activities”, as by this time she was aware of Ms B’s mental health difficulties.
At her hearing, Ms Schlemm said she fully accepted the “utter stupidity” of her actions and the committee was satisfied that she had a “genuine insight” into her lack of judgement. The committee also recognised Ms Schlemm had attended courses on teamwork and managing client relationships and had established good working relationships in a new practice.
“While the committee has accepted that Ms Schlemm was motivated by good intentions towards Ms B and Ratszy, she breached the trust of Ms B in the way in which she behaved,” said Peter Lees, chairing, and speaking on behalf of, the committee.
“The committee has concluded that Ms Schlemm should be severely reprimanded for her conduct and given a warning as to her future conduct [and] reminds the profession of the importance of maintaining a proper boundary between the professional and personal relationships of client and veterinary surgeon.”