03 Jan Legislative Update and Request for Your Assistance
Dr. Matthew Weeman, DVM, MS
Board of Directors Food Animal Representative
Chair, Legislative Committee
This past session your MDVMA and AVMA both used membership dollars to work hard on your behalf testifying on multiple, critical legislative items. For the first time in Maryland’s history a bill to reward non-economic damages was introduced. This bill was more damaging than any introduced in any other state prior. If passed, veterinarians would be subject to pain and suffering damages in the event a client were to sue for malpractice. The association encourages all veterinarians to practice the highest quality medicine possible and it is not the intent to prevent a client who is wronged from being “made whole”. Anyone who has ever experienced the loss of a pet knows there is no way to feel whole again especially if it is either the result of a human action or perceived to be.
Veterinarians are the tireless advocates and professionals providing care to animals. It’s therefore common that the death of an animal coincides with veterinary care. It is not a legal requirement for malpractice to have been committed in order for a client to sue a veterinarian. Most have heard the expression that “anyone can sue anyone for any reason”. The Maryland Veterinary Medical Association through its legislative committee consisting of a group of volunteer member veterinarians worked relentlessly with the AVMA to effectively block this legislation. There is no issue, past, present and probably not future more critical to the practice of veterinary medicine in this state than one that would allow a veterinarian to be sued for limitless damages. Ensuring a veterinarian for limitless damages will cause the cost of PLIT premiums to increase in almost logarithmic fashion. This is not just a threat to veterinarians. It doesn’t seem hyperbolic to state that veterinary care will become unaffordable for most pet owners and probably all producers of livestock and horses who won’t be able to afford the added costs associated with this increased liability. We don’t have to even speculate about how this looks-we can look to the human healthcare profession for an example of what will happen if a veterinarian can be sued for virtually limitless damages. I would argue it is worse for the veterinary profession given our patients live 1/8th the lifespan of a human and we are far more likely to lose more patients over the course of a career.
Please continue to support this association with your membership and tell your friends to do the same. Membership dollars are primarily used for this legislative purpose, not to pay employees of the association, not to pay members of your legislative committee…. The dues are used to pay the lawyers and professionals who are lobbying on your behalf; lawyers and professionals that we simply can’t go without. Nothing skims membership dues or keeps them from going directly to one of the most critical member benefit the association offers. In addition, members are encouraged to join the legislative committee. If joining the committee isn’t possible then please consider signing up to offer testimony on just one day of your choice during the legislative session (just email Marisa Francis, MDVMA’s Executive Director at MFrancis@MDVMA.org). If we could have just one veterinarian available to help us each day of the legislative session (about 120 days in total) we would be even more effective. Please consider helping.
Sign up to be “on call” one or two of your scheduled days off during session.
If every MDVMA member agrees to be “on call” just one day, we will make a huge impact for our profession.
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Watch the full video from our Chair