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Ethical Dilemmas in Practice
The Wrong Vaccine
  1. Siobhan Mullan

    Siobhan Mullan is a research fellow in animal welfare science, ethics and law at the University of Bristol. She holds the RCVS diploma in animal welfare science, ethics and law.


The dilemma in the May issue concerned a routine vaccination of a cat and a dog from the same household (In Practice, May 2010, volume 32, pages 214–215). As the clients settled their account, the vet realised that cat vaccine had been given to the dog and the dog vaccine to the cat. Anne Fawcett commented that it was important to consider first the impact of inappropriate vaccination and any corrective measures on the wellbeing of the patient, and secondly the vet's professional obligations to the client. While it might be tempting to say nothing to the client, the vet had not provided the services for which the clients had paid. A possible way forward would be to admit the error and build the client's trust. The vet should be prepared for the client to be upset and let them explain how they feel. It was important to state how the error occurred as this demonstrated a willingness to determine exactly what went wrong and how to correct it. Contacting the manufacturer of the vaccines and discussing their advice with the client was also an option. A client should never be charged for the administration of inappropriate treatment, and it would be wise for the practice to provide the correct vaccine and any associated treatment free of charge. It was also felt helpful to inform the client about any changes made to practice policy that would prevent a similar error occurring in future.

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