Unsupervised ordering raises ethical questions

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Jul 01, 2006

I own a small animal practice, and I discovered that my hospital manager and associate have been ordering equine products through my clinic. I like that I can help them by getting products at wholesale, but I worry about my liability since I don't treat horses. Is this legal?

"If your employees think they can order products without your knowledge, then you should question their ethics," says Dr. Charlotte Lacroix, president of Veterinary Business Advisors Inc., in Whitehouse Station, N.J. "What else might they be doing behind your back?"

Dr. Lacroix says you can certainly give your employees pet care discounts, which is a perk most employers give, but not without authorization and supervision. Plus, says Dr. Lacroix, if they're ordering the products using your credit card and didn't get your authorization to use your card to order personal items, that's theft.


Dr. Charlotte Lacroix
In terms of liability, you're potentially aiding and abetting the practice of veterinary medicine without a license, she says. "Are they ordering prescription drugs without a prescription?" she asks. Her advice: "Confront your employees and find out what possessed them to do this without your authorization. And consider instituting ethical rounds," she says. "You do medical rounds; why not meet monthly and talk about ethical issues, too?"