13 Aug 2022

Vet resolves case over report into alleged misconduct

Vet resolves case over report into alleged misconduct

High Court proceedings brought by Vet Daniel McCarthy against the Veterinary Council of Ireland, over a finding of alleged professional misconduct against him, have been resolved.

The court heard that following discussions between lawyers for Bandon, Co Cork-based Mr McCarthy and the Veterinary Council, which regulates the profession in Ireland, it was agreed that the findings and recommendations against the vet, contained in a 2019 report, be quashed.

The report had concluded that Mr McCarthy had engaged in professional misconduct that rendered him unfit to practise as a vet, and the FTP committee recommended that his name be removed from the register of veterinary practitioners.

As part of the settlement the allegations against Mr McCarthy are to be remitted back for a fresh hearing before the council's Fitness to Practice Committee.

He had been the subject of a disciplinary hearing conducted by the committee over allegations including that between 2009 and 2011 he dispensed prescription only animal medication in respect of animals not under his care.

It was also alleged that he issued prescription-only medications without prescription and failed to produce documentation to an authorised official.

The disciplinary process, was initiated in 2012 was stayed pending the resolution of a criminal prosecution against Dr McCarthy concerning animal medicines, for which he was fined €2,500, until 2018.

In his action Mr McCarthy, represented by Mark Harty SC, with Eoin O'Shea Bl instructed by solicitor Barry Creed, claimed that the report of the council's Fitness to Practise Committee, was flawed and should be set aside.

He argued that the report contained a finding that he had dealt with a drug called Oxycontin in significant units.

This was an error and it was claimed that the report should have instead referred to a drug called Oxytocin, which is used as a relaxant during animal birth. 

Mr McCarthy had never dealt with or prescribed Oxycontin, which is a highly addictive opioid used in the treatment of chronic pain in humans, including palliative care, it was submitted.

An allegation of dealing with oxycontin without prescription would be a matter of ultimate seriousness by any doctor, pharmacist or vet, to have engaged in, it was claimed.

It was also submitted that there was nothing in the report to show that the committee when reaching its conclusions was aware that the drug allegedly dispensed was oxytocin rather than oxycontin.

His lawyers argued that nowhere in the witness statements was there any mention of Oxycontin.

Mr McCarthy also argued that a finding by the committee that he provided prescription medication without a prescription on an industrial scale was wrong, unsafe and unsound

He further argued that the council had acted outside of its jurisdiction regarding the sanction it recommended.

Mr McCarthy's judicial review application was opposed. The council had claimed that the error had no material bearing on the recommended sanction.

The case opened before Mr Justice Garrett Simons on Tuesday, and was adjourned, following a recommendation by the judge, to allow discussions between the parties.

On Wednesday Eileen Barrington SC for the Council told the court that the talks had been productive.

It had been agreed that the findings in the report could be quashed, and that the matter was to be remitted back to a differently composed Fitness to Practice Committee for a fresh hearing.

That hearing is to be expedited, counsel said. The sides had also come to an arrangement regarding the legal costs of the action, the court also heard.

Mr Harty told the court his side were consenting to the settlement, and added that his client will comply with all agreed measures to ensure that the fresh hearing takes places as soon as possible.

The judge welcomed the settlement and praised the sides for the "pragmatic approach" they had taken in relation to the action. 

He said that at the centre of the case was "an error" which he said could "happen to the best of us," adding that it was unfortunate that the legislation did not allow for such a mistake to be rectified. 

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