The American Veterinary Medical Association maintains a model state veterinary medical practice act, which states often refer to when crafting their own practice acts for licensing and regulating veterinarians. Periodically, the AVMA solicits comments from its members and updates this document. The organization is currently accepting such comments until February 15, 2011. The document can be viewed here, and AVMA members can make comments on specific sections.
As I have discussed before, in general terms and with reference to specific veterinarians, it can be difficult for state veterinary medical boards to effectively enforce a reasonable standard of care and protect pets and their owners from inappropriate or pseudoscientific treatments if the language of the law does not offer specific grounds for such enforcement. Since the language of the AVMA model practice act is often used as a basis for states when drafting their own laws, it has some influence on these laws. And because the AVMA is a membership organization dedicated primarily to representing the veterinary profession, the language of the model practice act is dependent on the internal politics of the organization. As with most such processes, the apathy of the majority increases the influence of those who choose to participate.
I encourage any AVMA member veterinarians to examine the act and offer comments. Below are a few suggestions I have made with regard to my concerns about alternative veterinary medical practices.
Section 2-7 Complementary and Alternative Medicine
The language “may differ from current scientific knowledge” and “may diverge from veterinary medicine routinely taught…” both imply separate but equal bases for knowledge and curriculum standards. However, as a science-based profession, all veterinary medical therapies should be held to the same standard of evidence, namely that of accepted science-based research. It would be more appropriate, and more effective in protecting the public, if the language read:
“…at the time they are performed are not consistent with established scientific knowledge or supported by broadly accepted scientific research…”
“…theoretical bases and techniques are not part of the science-based veterinary medicine routinely taught in accredited…”
Section 14-Discipline of Licensees
An important element of a medical practice act is protecting the public from substandard or inappropriate care. Unless the basis of actions against veterinarians providing inappropriate care are clearly defined in the practice act, courts are reluctant to discipline licensed veterinarians. The following are examples of language, drawn from the Federation of State Medical Boards (http://www.fsmb.org/pdf/2003_grpol_Modern_Medical_Practice_Act.pdf) and specific medical practice acts regulating M.D.s, which give the medical board adequate authority to enforce an acceptable standard of care.
“making a false or misleading statement regarding his or her skill or the efficacy or value of the medicine, treatment or remedy prescribed by him or her or at his or her direction in the treatment
of any disease or other condition ”
“representing to a patient that an incurable condition, sickness, disease or injury can be cured”
“any adverse judgment, award or settlement against the licensee resulting from a medical liability claim related to acts or conduct similar to acts or conduct that would constitute grounds for action as defined in this section”
“providing treatment or consultation recommendations, including issuing a prescription, via electronic or other means, unless the [veterinarian] has obtained a history and physical evaluation of the patient adequate to establish diagnosis and identify underlying conditions and/or contraindications to the treatment recommended/provided”
“employing methods of treatment or diagnosis that do not conform to the standards of acceptable and prevailing scientific medical practice”