Veterinarians must act in a manner that promotes the public's trust and confidence in the profession.
Understanding the guiding principle
Veterinarians must display high standards of integrity and accountability and must not engage in fraud, misrepresentation or deception.
Understanding section 1
Veterinarians must maintain the integrity of certification.
Understanding section 2
Veterinarians must identify, declare and manage conflicts of interest so as to demonstrate that they are acting with impartiality and independence.
Understanding section 3
Conflicts of interest
A conflict of interest arises when a veterinarian's duties and responsibilities may be affected by some other interest that the veterinarian has, usually a personal or commercial interest. The test for a conflict of interest is not whether the veterinarian thinks that such an interest may affect their ability or actions but rather the perceptions of other people as to whether the conflict may have an effect on the ability or actions of the veterinarian.
A veterinarian must declare a conflict of interest, or a possible conflict, at the earliest possible time that they become aware of circumstances that exist, or that may arise, as to a conflict. Conflicts of interest may arise at any time and the obligation to declare a conflict of interest, or a possible conflict, is ongoing.
The first step in dealing with a conflict of interest is to identify and declare the conflict, or possible conflict. Veterinarians need to consider the nature of their relationship with the person(s) or organisation(s) concerned and also the nature of their duty or obligation. One test is to ask the question - would a reasonable person, aware of all of the facts, consider that the relationship between the veterinarian and the person(s)/organisation(s) concerned would affect the way in which the veterinarian acted? If the answer is 'yes' or 'maybe', then the circumstances of the conflict, or possible conflict, should be disclosed to the person(s) affected. If the answer is 'no', then it is appropriate to proceed.
The second step in dealing with a conflict of interest is to manage the conflict, or possible conflict, and decide what action to take. This would usually involve discussing the matter with the affected person(s) or organisation. Veterinarians should use their judgement in making a decision whether to proceed. In many circumstances it may be more appropriate to withdraw and to refer the person or matter to another veterinarian.
The existence of a conflict of interest does not necessarily mean that a veterinarian cannot be involved in an activity and must withdraw. However if the veterinarian decides to proceed then a procedure needs to be followed to ensure that the person(s) who may be affected by the conflict is fully informed of the circumstances of the conflict, or possible conflict, and gives consent to the veterinarian continuing to act. If there is any doubt as to what action should be taken, it is better to withdraw.
Veterinarians may have access to workplace policies and procedures for managing conflicts of interest. In the absence of such policies the Flowchart for Managing Conflicts of Interest offers some guidance on how to manage conflicts.
Veterinarians are advised to keep records in all situations where conflicts, or possible conflicts, of interest arise. These should include:
- the nature of the conflict
- the process by which the conflict is managed
- situations where they identified that a possible conflict might exist, but decided that no conflict existed and they proceeded to provide services.
Where a veterinarian is asked for an opinion, or to issue a certificate in an area where the veterinarian has a conflict of interest, then it is advisable to notify the conflict and withdraw. However, if the requester still wishes the veterinarian to provide an opinion or issue a certificate then the veterinarian should declare the conflict as part of the opinion or certificate so that the reader of the certificate or opinion is aware of any associated interest that the veterinarian may have.
Flowchart for managing conflicts of interest
Veterinarians must not seek or accept inducements that can be shown to influence their treatment or sales decisions.
Understanding section 4
Veterinarians must immediately notify MPI when they suspect the presence of any organism (disease, parasite etc.) not usually seen in New Zealand, and any notifiable organism and then comply with the instructions of MPI.
Understanding section 5
Veterinarians called as either a witness or an expert witness in a court or tribunal must give their evidence honestly and accurately. When presenting expert evidence, veterinarians must do so impartially and within their areas of expertise.
Understanding section 6
Veterinarians officiating in a professional capacity at animal based events such as races, shows or competitions must:
- declare any conflict of interest relevant to their official duties to the appropriate authority at the earliest opportunity
- behave in accordance with the principles and rules of the competition and those of its organisers
- use their professional judgement to prevent any situation which is likely to compromise an animal's welfare
- avoid any act which unfairly influences any animal's performance.
Understanding section 7
When treating or prescribing for any animal before a race, show or event, veterinarians must ensure that the relevant rules of the Racing, or Harness Racing Conferences, Greyhound Association or similar bodies are followed.
Understanding section 8
When promoting services and products:
- veterinarians must act fairly representing their capability and competence accurately
- veterinarians must not exaggerate any claim or comparison of the service or product over another or overstate their skills and knowledge by using misleading descriptors.
Understanding section 9
Veterinarians must use their professional judgement in deciding whether to notify VCNZ where they have reason to believe that the health, conduct or competence of a colleague is adversely affecting patient care or undermining the public’s trust in the profession.
Understanding section 10
Veterinarians must, at the time of completing their annual practising certificate application, declare if they have:
- any health conditions
- been charged with or found guilty of a criminal offence
- been suspended or dismissed on conduct or competence grounds
- resigned for reasons relating to competence or conduct
- been subject to an adverse finding by an overseas veterinary regulatory body.
Veterinarians must also consider notifying VCNZ of any of the above issues at the time they arise rather than delaying until the annual practising certificate round.
Understanding section 11
Veterinarians must respond to complaints in a timely, honest and constructive manner.
Understanding section 12