After Ah Bee’s story was posted on social media, I received an overwhelming response in the form of public comments, private email messages and well-wishes from friends and strangers alike. Many of them shared with me their unfortunate encounters with vets across the island. Due to a lack of time, I apologize I am not able to reply every one of them.
We see Ah Bee as our child
Ah Bee is not just a dog. He grew up with us and was a member of our family in the past 12 years. We had him when he was a baby at 3 months – I kept his puppy teeth in a trinket box and raised him as our human child. He was a part of our family outings and birthday celebrations. We knew his time on earth is limited and one day, he would leave us. Nonetheless, in his short lifespan of 12 years, we have formed a special bond and he has left us with fond memories.
We were responsible for not being able to pick up the medication error much earlier. This tragedy might not have happened if I have personally administered the medicine to him. But it is all too late for regrets as we are unable to reverse the events. I am grateful to my husband for taking up the responsibility of caring for Ah Bee while I am out working. He had a more flexible schedule since he was working from home for the past few years. The guilt from his tragic end will continue to burden us for the rest of our lives.
In this case, it is clear that the medication error arises due to human error. The vets who are behind Mount Pleasant has a duty to train their staff to be vigilant. They need to be liable for care lapses occurring within their premises. A wrong medication handed to someone who has vision impairment or illiterate would have dire consequences. Often, the death of an animal is overlooked because it’s life is deemed to be of less value to that of a human. This shouldn’t be the case. Any pet brought to a vet for treatment should be treated with care and dignity. The state of our animal welfare is a direct reflection of how we are as a civilized nation.
We need transparency and accountability
We surprised that there is no proper framework for handling medical negligent cases amongst the veterinary profession in Singapore. When an incident happens, pet owners can only sought to complain to Animal and Veterinary Service (AVS) and they have to wait for a year for investigations to be completed. I have heard of anecdotes that the complainants were disappointed about the closed door processes and their cases were dismissed one year later without any clear explanation. The lack of transparency for such a system is disheartening. The public needs to be informed of the investigative findings and this knowledge should be on online domain. Errant vets should be named and disciplinary action should be meted. This happens in human medicine, why should it be any different for animal medicine? We would not be able to advance as a society if medical errors are covered up and care lapses are ignored.
Prior to launching an online petition, I have consulted a representative from an animal welfare group. He too shared similar experiences and supported my ideas. You would probably have heard of stories of healthy animals being put down by unethical vets before they can reach animal welfare groups. We raised the campaign not because we are against the veterinary profession. On the contrary, we felt that the better vets out there will agree that improving the regulatory framework will benefit not only the pets and their owners, it would also provide them with clearer guidance and direction.
For more than a decade now, vets in Singapore have been calling for the formation of a neutral professional board – much like the Singapore Medical Council and the Singapore Dental Council – in regulating the conduct and ethics of vets here.
Currently, AVS regulates vets and assesses complaints regarding professional conduct. Some vets are not in favour of this system.
Dr Chua added: “A board would have a panel of people involved, neutral parties as well as science-based people arriving at a decision. That raises the whole animal welfare standards as well.”– Straits Times Article in May 2021
Medication error ignored by Mount Pleasant
As of now, at the time of my writing, we have not received any response, let alone an apology from Mount Pleasant about the medication error. This goes to show that they are incognizant of the pain and suffering humans go through as we journey with our pet’s death. Ah Bee’s time may be limited on earth but he deserves to be treated with respect and dignity, even in his last moments. Let his early demise not be in vain. We hope to see that veterinary care in Singapore will move forward into a more regulated realm someday.
Prevent pet death due to irresponsible vets – Regulate vets today.