August 02, 2016

Preventive Legal Health: Legal Risks of Bad Veterinary Recordkeeping

In veterinary practice, proper recordkeeping must be kept in order to prevent legal risks and repercussions.
By Anthony A. Mahan, Esq, MBA


A verbal record, contract, or authorization is open to various interpretations. Veterinarians need to use proper waivers and consents and obtain a client’s signature. Memories may fade over time, but written and signed documents are the best evidence of mutual understanding.
Example: A receptionist failed to obtain a dental consent form when the patient was dropped off, and the client verbally consented to a dental procedure, but declined dental radiographs. During the procedure, the patient’s jaw is broken due to reasons that may have been observed on radiographs. The client will most likely receive remuneration if (s)he later claims lack of informed consent or that (s)he had requested radiographs, since the lack of a written record leaves the recollections after the occurrence open to interpretation.
Listed below are the most typical hospital forms we recommend in all practices:
  • Against Medical Advice
  • Consent for Surgery and Anesthesia
  • Consent for Treatment (Drop Off)
  • Dental Consent
  • Euthanasia and After Care
  • Medical Records Release Authorization
  • Restraint by Owner
  • Waivers for Declined Services
  • New Client Form
  • Estimates
  • Promissory Note
  • Employment Agreement
  • Relinquish Pet Authorization
  • Volunteer/Internship Agreement
  • Authorization to Use Patient Photo graphs and Videos for Advertising Purposes
Preventive legal health encapsulates an understanding on the veterinarian’s part that records are not solely for medical purposes. Records are evidence that must comply with certain legal principles.
Anthony Mahan owns and manages Mahan Law, a firm with a dedicated practice division representing veterinary hospitals through Mr. Mahan is also co-owner of Riverview Animal Hospital in Bellevue, Kentucky. Apart from being an experienced business and litigation attorney, Mr. Mahan is also an adjunct professor of entrepreneurial and business Law at Northern Kentucky University. Mr. Mahan holds a bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of Kentucky, an MBA from Northern Kentucky University, and a law degree from the University of Cincinnati.
  1. The Kentucky Board of Veterinary Examiners. Kentucky Administrative Regulations: code of ethical conduct 201 KAR 16:010, Section 10. Frankfort, Kentucky: Board of Veterinary Examiners; 2012:15-18.
  2. The Committee on the Judiciary House of Representatives. Federal Rules of Evidence: Rule 803: exceptions to the rule against hearsay— regardless of whether the declarant is available as a witness. Washington, DC: US Government; 2014: 18-21.

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