RCVS Disciplinary Committee Postpones Judgment on Hampshire Vet

By Royal College Of Veterinary Surgeons, PRNE
Sunday, November 21, 2010

LONDON, November 22, 2010 - The Disciplinary Committee of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons
has postponed judgment on sanction for 12 months in the case of a Hampshire
veterinary surgeon found guilty of serious professional misconduct for
cumulative failures to provide adequate professional care, and insufficient
regard for animal welfare whilst treating a dog.

At a hearing which concluded on Thursday (19 November 2010), Peter Ardle
MacMahon MRCVS faced a six-part charge after working as a locum for Vets Now
at North End in Portsmouth where, on the night of 14/15 July 2009, he treated
Wilfred, a Cocker Spaniel who had ingested broken glass along with raw mince.

The Committee found that, having decided that surgery was an appropriate
treatment, Mr MacMahon had not removed the glass identified on a radiograph.
Nor had he even superficially searched the stomach contents he had evacuated
to check that a large piece of glass he had previously identified on the
radiograph had been removed. He had also not taken adequate steps to prevent
contamination of Wilfred's abdominal cavity prior to the incision to the

Mr MacMahon admitted he knew there had been considerable spillage of
stomach contents into Wilfred's abdomen. The Committee found that, with this
knowledge, for Mr MacMahon to use only 250ml of fluid to lavage the abdomen
was inadequate. This contributed to the Spaniel developing chemical
peritonitis which might have developed into septic peritonitis but for a
second operation the next morning, after the dog had been returned to the
care of his usual veterinary practice. The Committee also expressed concern
that Mr MacMahon had failed to effectively communicate the abdominal
contamination to Wilfred's usual vets when he was handed back into their

Taken as individual allegations, these would not, in the opinion of the
Committee, constitute serious professional misconduct. However, the Committee
was of the view that, taken cumulatively, the charges was proved, and
therefore the treatment given to Wilfred, fell far short of the standard to
be expected in the profession.

When considering mitigating and aggravating factors, the Committee
accepted that Mr MacMahon and the veterinary nurse assisting him were
unfamiliar with the premises in which they were working, resulting in a
difficulty in locating important equipment, and there were also multiple
urgent cases during the evening the operation took place. The Committee also
noted that 17 months had passed since the operation, and no further
complaints against Mr MacMahon had been received by the RCVS.

The Committee further took into account that Mr MacMahon had little
recent experience, having returned to practising veterinary medicine in
January 2009, following almost ten years spent outside the veterinary
profession. During this hiatus he undertook no continuing professional
development (CPD), and completed only a five-week period of supervised
practice prior to re-entering the profession.

"The Respondent placed himself in this situation: he knew that he had
been out of practice for ten years, had not done any formal CPD during that
time and chose to accept an appointment to work as a locum in a sole-charge
out-of-hours emergency clinic," said Mrs Caroline Freedman, Chairman of the
Disciplinary Committee. "A foremost aggravating factor is that animal welfare
was adversely affected. A non-critical patient was placed at risk by the
Respondent's failures."

The Committee reiterated that the purpose of sanctions was not to be
punitive, but to protect animal welfare, to maintain public confidence in the
profession and to maintain professional standards. "A postponement of
judgment, with suitable undertakings from the Respondent, is the correct
course of action," said Mrs Freedman. Mr MacMahon has subsequently signed
undertakings relating to CPD in both surgical and medical disciplines, and
the Committee has postponed for 12 months its judgment as to any further


1. The RCVS is the regulatory body for veterinary surgeons in the UK and
deals with issues of professional misconduct, maintaining the register of
veterinary surgeons eligible to practise in the UK and assuring standards of
veterinary education.

2. RCVS disciplinary powers are exercised through the Preliminary
Investigation and Disciplinary Committees, established in accordance with
Schedule 2 to the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 (the 1966 Act). The RCVS has
authority to deal with three types of case:

a) Fraudulent registration b) Criminal convictions c) Allegations of
disgraceful professional conduct

3. The Disciplinary Committee is a constituted judicial tribunal under
the 1966 Act and follows rules of evidence similar to those used in a court
of law.

4. The burden of proving an allegation falls upon the RCVS, and the RCVS
must prove to the standard that the Committee is sure.

5. A respondent veterinary surgeon may appeal a Disciplinary Committee
decision to the Privy Council within 28 days of the date of the decision. If
no appeal is received, the Committee's judgment takes effect after this

6. Further information, including the charges against Mr MacMahon and the
Committee's findings and decision on sanction, can be found at

For more information please contact:

Claire Millington, Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons
+44(0)20-7202-0783 / c.millington@rcvs.org.uk

Claire Millington, Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, +44(0)20-7202-0783 / c.millington at rcvs.org.uk

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