The lying, not the bungled operations, was what got two veterinarians in trouble with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.
The regulatory body overseeing the United Kingdom’s veterinary profession this week suspended a practice owner for four months and his assistant for two months after an investigation into the death of a 2-year-old Labradoodle named Benson.
The case began in August 2013 when Benson was taken to Swinfen Veterinary Centre in central England for neutering. The surgery was assigned to veterinarian Georgi Cheshmedzhiev.
Benson was placed in a cage after the operation but was returned to surgery when a nursing assistant reported seeing blood on his bedding and a swollen scrotum. Practice owner Mpho Donald Lesolle took over from Dr. Cheshmedzhiev, performed a scrotal ablation and applied what he told investigators were additional ligatures.
Benson went home the same day and died two days later. A necropsy revealed that Benson likely died of internal bleeding and that no evidence of ligatures could be found.
The dog’s owners filed a complaint with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), and the cover-up took off when Dr. Lesolle told investigators that he performed both operations. He also encouraged the nurse to lie about what took place.
Cheshmedzhiev went along with the deception by identifying Lesolle as the surgeon in both instances.
Weighing all the facts, RCVS’s disciplinary committee determined that Lesolle lied to investigators because he saw his colleague as “vulnerable” and “lacking in self-confidence.”
Lesolle, a native of Botswana, attended the disciplinary hearing. Cheshmedzhiev moved back to Bulgaria, where he is currently practicing, and declined to represent himself before the committee.
In suspending Cheshmedzhiev for two months—an action that cannot be enforced in Bulgaria—the committee determined that he “allowed himself to be persuaded by Mr. Lesolle to provide a dishonest account.”
Lesolle’s suspension on charges of disgraceful conduct could have been longer than four months, but the committee considered that his mixed practice is the only source of income for Lesolle, his wife and two children. The panel also noted that “he responds to the needs of his clients in the surrounding community.”
Taking responsibility for Benson’s entire care and persuading Cheshmedzhiev and the nurse to lie amounted to a “calculated decision” by Lesolle, according to committee chairman Ian Green.
“He continued with the deceit until he was presented with incontrovertible evidence that he had not carried out both procedures on the dog,” Green said.
“In the committee’s view he showed a willful disregard for the college’s investigatory process.”
The committee acknowledged that Cheshmedzhiev’s suspension carries little weight given that he moved to Bulgaria.
“He has expressed a present intention not to work in or visit the United Kingdom again,” Green said.