Sylwia Kalisz MRCVS has been reprimanded by the RCVS Disciplinary Committee for lapses in clinical judgement in relation to the treatment of a cocker spaniel.

Dr Kalisz faced a total of nine charges (including 41 sub-charges).

The first was that in July 2020, she failed to carry out a clinical examination of the dog, failed to adequately interpret test results, failed to ask for help interpreting the results, 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, Dr Kalisz faced charges that 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 of the procedure, and also failed to provide enough information about aftercare.

It was also alleged that Dr Kalisz had demonstrated continual lapses in professional judgement, including failing to appropriately manage the spaniel’s worsening condition when it was presented to the practice again later, 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.

The Committee the considered aggravating factors, including the fact that Dr Kalisz's 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.

In mitigation, the Committee considered the fact that it was single and isolated incident (albeit one that spanned a number of days), that 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, failing to manage the spaniel’s subsequent care and failing to mention the colotomy amounted to serious professional misconduct.

On deciding the sanction, the Committee took into account the mitigation submitted on behalf of Dr Kalisz and the written testimonials produced including the fact that she 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, the Committee said, 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.” 

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