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Manchester-based vet issued reprimand for serious and repeated lapses in clinical judgement

31 October 2023

The RCVS Disciplinary Committee has issued a Manchester-based veterinary surgeon a reprimand for serious and repeated lapses in clinical judgement in relation to the treatment of a cocker spaniel.

The Disciplinary Committee hearing for Dr Sylwia Kalisz MRCVS, took place at the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, London, from Monday 9 October to Friday 20 October.

There was a total of nine charges (including 41 particulars) brought against her relating to her conduct while working in practice in Manchester and in relation to the treatment of the spaniel.

The first charge and its particulars were that, on 15 July 2020 Dr Kalisz failed to carry out a full clinical examination of the dog, failed to adequately interpret test results, failed to ask for assistance in this, and undertook an emergency Caesarean section without sufficient need to do so.

The other charges related to undertaking a colotomy without sufficient justification and without exercising sufficient clinical judgment throughout the procedure. For both the Caesarean section and the colotomy, there were charges brought against Dr Kalisz stating she failed to obtain informed consent from the owners and failed to inform them that the colotomy had been carried out, or of the potential risks that could incur following such a procedure, and also failed to provide sufficient information on aftercare. Charges also alleged continual lapses in professional judgement, including failing to appropriately manage the spaniel’s worsening condition when presented to the practice again between 15 and 18 July 2020, and that the clinical records in relation to the surgery were dishonest and/or misleading.

Dr Kalisz admitted serious professional misconduct, admitting to 29 of the sub-charges, while the remaining 12 sub-charges were denied. The Committee found 30 of the sub-charges proven, with the remaining 11 not proven.

Having considered the facts of the charges, the Committee then considered whether the admitted and proven charges amounted to serious professional misconduct. In doing so, the it took into account both aggravating and mitigating factors, including the fact that her conduct led to the spaniel’s death, the colotomy was reckless and Dr Kalisz did not take steps to inform anybody or make a clinical record for the colotomy at any point, it being a single and isolated incident (albeit one that spanned a number of days), no other members of the clinical team involved raised concerns during the procedure, and the effect Covid had upon the veterinary profession. The Committee found that of those charges proven, the ones relating to performing the colotomy (including failing to obtain informed consent for and subsequently inform owners of the same), failing to manage the spaniel’s care on 18 July 2020, failing to mention the colotomy (and that this was misleading) amounted to serious professional misconduct.

On deciding upon a sanction, the Committee took into account all of the mitigation submitted on behalf of Dr Kalisz and the written testimonials produced including the fact that Dr Kalisz was young and inexperienced, had admitted her failings at an early stage, had made subsequent efforts to avoid a repetition of such behaviour and that a significant amount of time had passed since the incident. The Committee also considered that Dr Kalisz had shown an exemplary level of insight, showing remorse for her actions, undertaking substantial continuing professional development, and finding appropriate ongoing professional mentorship. The Committee was impressed by the character testimonials from veterinary co-workers, both current and at the time of these events, as well as from clients. It was apparent from those testimonials that Dr Kalisz had been open and honest with them about the charges and was considered to be an excellent, committed veterinary surgeon.

Paul Morris, chairing the Committee and speaking on its behalf said: “The Committee found that this was a single isolated incident, which involved serious lapses of clinical judgement. It was therefore concluded that, despite Dr Kalisz’s actions being reckless, the extensive mitigation and the high level of insight, coupled with steps taken to avoid repetition, meant that there was negligible future risk to animal welfare.

“The Committee did not consider it necessary to issue a warning to Dr Kalisz about her future conduct, on the basis that the Committee has concluded that there is little risk of repetition, so considered that a reprimand would be an appropriate sanction in this case.”

The full findings regarding the hearing can be found on our Disciplinary Committee webpage.

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