Veterinary Client/Patient Relationship
The veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR) is the basis for interaction among veterinarians, their clients and their patients. Prescribing a prescription product requires a VCPR. Without a VCPR, a veterinarian’s merchandising or use of veterinary prescription drugs or their extra-label use of any pharmaceutical is unethical and is illegal under federal law.
A VCPR means that all of the following are required:
- The veterinarian has assumed the responsibility for making clinical judgments regarding the health of the patient and the client has agreed to follow the veterinarians’ instructions.
- The veterinarian has sufficient knowledge of the patient to initiate at least a general or preliminary diagnosis of the medical condition of the patient. This means that the veterinarian is personally acquainted with the keeping and care of the patient by virtue of a timely examination of the patient by the veterinarian, or medically appropriate and timely visits by the veterinarian to the operation where the patient is managed.
- The veterinarian is readily available for follow-up evaluation or has arranged for the following: veterinary emergency coverage, and continuing care and treatment.
- The veterinarian provides oversight of treatment, compliance, and outcome.
- Patient records are maintained.
- Veterinarians should honor a client’s request for a prescription in lieu of dispensing.
Veterinarians may terminate a VCPR under certain conditions, and they have an ethical obligation to use courtesy and tact in doing so.
- If there is no ongoing medical condition, veterinarians may terminate a VCPR by notifying the client that they no longer wish to serve that patient and client.
- If there is an ongoing medical or surgical condition, the patient should be referred to another veterinarian for diagnosis, care and treatment. The former attending veterinarian should continue to provide care, as needed, during the transition.
- Clients may terminate the VCPR at any time.
Source: Bourque, T. and Horney, B. July 2016. Principles of the Veterinary Medical Ethics of the CVMA.