Policy changes clarify veterinarians' roles, responsibilities

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A series of policy changes are intended to clarify the AVMA's policies on the roles and responsibilities of veterinarians in pharmaceutical use, medical procedures, animal transportation, and animal socialization.

The Executive Board passed the changes during a meeting Nov. 18-20 at AVMA headquarters in Schaumburg, Ill.

The board passed a recommendation to extensively revise the policy "Guidelines for Veterinary Prescription Drugs" to explain how and when veterinarians are allowed to use animal drugs in an extralabel manner, what measures are needed to ensure that drug use in animals does not violate laws and regulations, and what circumstances must exist for veterinarians to use compounded drugs.

The AVMA policy "Embryo Transplant Procedures," now renamed as "Embryo Transfer Procedures," maintains the position that embryo transfer procedures are a function of veterinary medicine. But the text was edited to state that "Any non-veterinarian embryo transfer technologist should work under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian."

The Executive Board also approved revising the Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics of the AVMA to state that a consultation fee charged by a consulting veterinarian can be collected by the attending veterinarian from the client. However, the document states it is unethical for veterinarians to engage in fee-splitting, which is defined as "payment by a referral veterinarian of part of their fee to the attending veterinarian who has not rendered professional services." The guidance excludes from the definition of fee-splitting the use of consultants, laboratory services, and online pharmacies (see story).

The AVMA policy "Training in Foreign and Emerging Animal Disease" was edited to remove language stating that practicing veterinarians are the first to be involved in responses to outbreaks of diseases in animals, as the language was not seen as fitting with the policy's intended focus on training. But the board added language stating that all veterinarians need to be prepared to "recognize foreign animal diseases, emerging or reemerging diseases, or animal disease resulting from an act of bioterrorism." The edited policy now also states that the AVMA encourages all veterinarians to participate in training programs and continuing education programs associated with foreign and emerging animal disease.

The Executive Board referred back to the Council on Veterinary Service a recommendation that would have replaced the policies "AVMA Position on Pre-Signed Certificates of Veterinary Inspection" and "Position on Certificates of Veterinary Inspection" with a single policy, "Certificates of Veterinary Inspection." The new policy would have stated that a veterinarian-client-patient relationship should be established for all certificates of veterinary inspection. Establishing that relationship would include becoming acquainted with the keeping and care of an animal and being available for follow-up evaluation, but such certificates are often issued following inspections of animals sold at auction or shipped interstate. Inclusion of the statement regarding the VCPR would have been inconsistent with Department of Agriculture requirements.

The policy "Surgical Procedures by Non-Veterinary Students," which indicates surgery on an animal is the practice of veterinary medicine and that the AVMA does not advocate instruction of nonveterinary students in surgical procedures, was reaffirmed after the board added an exemption for surgery performed for research purposes.

The Executive Board also disapproved the proposed policy "Puppy and Kitten Socialization," which would have created a new policy stating that the AVMA supports inclusion of socialization concurrent with routine preventive care. Dr. John R. Scamahorn said that while socialization is critically important, it seems unnecessary for the AVMA to adopt such a policy.