Update: East End veterinarian found guilty of professional misconduct and serious neglect

Dr. Jonathan Mitelman posted an apology video to the VetToronto Facebook page after being found guilty of professional misconduct by the College of Veterinarians. PHOTO: Facebook

A College of Veterinarians discipline tribunal had serious misgivings about the conduct of a popular East End veterinarian, according to the full text of a hearing which ultimately ended in the veterinarian being found guilty of professional misconduct and serious neglect.

Dr. Jonathan Mitelman, owner of VetsToronto and the Kingston Road Animal Hospital, has had his licence suspended for at least three months, down from five if he completes required education courses, particularly centred on animal pain management, according to a decision signed by the college discipline panel May 13, 2016. He must pay the college $85,000 in costs and, once his practice resumes, will be subject to spot checks by the college to ensure his record keeping and practice is up to standard.

“General and specific deterrence was provided by publication of the facts of the case (including publication of the member’s name) and by the licence and financial penalties imposed. Specific deterrence was provided by the reprimand that served to impress upon Dr. Mitelman the seriousness of his misconduct and the disappointment that it brought to the profession,” the tribunal panel wrote in its decision.

The case involves a police officer and her 13-year-old German shepherd cross named Dakota, who was misdiagnosed and whose pain was improperly managed, according to the full text of the hearing that took place throughout 2015.

The case also involves another veterinarian, Dr. Morris Samson, the original owner of the clinic, who was found guilty of professional misconduct for the same incident. Samson continues to appeal that decision, while Mitelman abandoned his appeal earlier this month and, as part of the college’s decision, has waived his right to further appeal.

In a statement posted to the clinic’s website and Facebook page last week, Mitelman spoke of the college’s findings and detailed his version of the events leading up to the hearing and decision. He apologized for his actions and said that the last five years have been a learning experience for him and his staff.

“This case is not a straightforward one,” said Mitelman in the video statement. “Since 2011, I have lived and breathed this case and my heart hurts for the owner who lost her beloved pet. This case slipped through my fingers and I will never live it down. I regret having missed the fracture. I regret having overlooked the possibility of bone cancer. I regret that the dog’s pain management could have been better. I regret that documentation could have been more thorough. Put simply, I could have done better.”

In 2011, the clinic took on Dakota’s emergency case – the dog was unable to walk after being jumped on by another dog hours earlier. Seven veterinarians were eventually involved in the various diagnoses and treatment options, Mitelman said.

Mitelman said he failed to initially recognize the dog had a fractured leg, instead diagnosing the dog as suffering from a herniated disc. Because he was treating the dog as paralyzed, he did not administer the correct amount of pain medication for a dog with a fractured leg, he said.

After the fracture was discovered, said Mitelman, another specialist attended to the dog and believed the fracture was due to trauma. Over the course of several months, specialists, and surgeries, it was eventually discovered that the dog had bone cancer. Mitelman said that the client continued to opt for surgeries despite being told repeatedly that the elderly dog might not walk again.

The dog was eventually euthanized in October, nearly four months after the initial emergency vet visit.

The findings of serious misconduct and serious neglect stem from the nine days the dog was in the vet’s care in June, as well as the conduct of the veterinarian afterwards. The hearing text details incidences of failing to adequately diagnose the dog’s injuries, inaccurate and insufficient record keeping and falsifying records in order to intentionally mislead. It also details several instances where Mitelman attempted to shift blame to other veterinarians at the clinic and questions communication standards between the veterinarian and the client.

The panel’s harshest criticism, which is reflected in the finding of serious neglect and attention given to rehabilitation through pain management courses in the penalty decision, involves Mitelmen’s assessment and treatment of the dog’s pain.

“It was the opinion of the panel that Dr. Mitelman displayed either a lack of knowledge regarding drug selection, dosage, frequency and onset of action or elected to ignore this knowledge when selecting treatments for Dakota,” reads the decision. “The panel felt that during Dr. Mitelman’s testimony he seemed to display little sympathy for the amount of discomfort that Dakota had endured and he expressed little remorse for his part in allowing that discomfort to continue. He testified that it was the job of other doctors and/or technicians to assess pain and provide medications. However, Dr. Mitelman was Dakota’s primary caregiver and the panel agreed that it was his responsibility to supervise and manage her care. This lack of remorse, along with his blatant lack of knowledge and judgement, demonstrated to the panel a clear disregard for the welfare of his patient.”

The panel felt that the lack of knowledge could be rehabilitated, but particularly concerning was the apparent lack of remorse. They wrote in their decision that the panel was considering submissions as to whether Mitelman is “unfit to engage in the practice of veterinary medicine, or whether he is fit to engage in the practice of veterinary medicine only subject to certain conditions and limitations.”

Ultimately, the panel’s decision favoured the latter, with the panel opting to add on certain conditions beyond what was initially recommended in the discipline decision – namely, a longer and mentored pain management course and the requirement that Mitelman submit a 3,500 word paper at the end of the course to show what he has learned.

A series of follow-up on-site reviews by the college when his practice resumes will focus on record keeping, as well as “special attention to pain management, radiograph technique, labelling, and interpretation.”

In his statement and video apology, Mitelman said that over the last few years, the clinic has “revamped and updated procedures for record keeping, pain management and client communications.” The clinic will remain open throughout his suspension.


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11 comments

It’s a shame Dr M made such a mistake.. and falsifying documents there is no excuse for..

However.. He did save my cat for free.. and Ill always be thankful. Every where else wouldnt help or would euthanize…

No one is perfect. I am sure he has done way more good then bad..

Dr. Mitelman saved my cat’s life after she was misdiagnosed by another local clinic. I find him compassionate, attentive and knowledgeable. My cat is thriving at 23 years of age because of him. Everyone makes mistakes, it is how we learn from those mistakes that determines character. I trust him with my animals more than any other vet.

It is a shame that Dr Mitelman reviewed the original screens taken my Dr Samson, and only later took more screens and discovered the break. Considering Dr. Samson was the original vet when Dakota was brought in, Dr Mitelman acted on Dr Samson’s original diagnoses. What I’m most disturbed about, is that Dakota was released from Vets Toronto on June 30. Dakota’s owner noticed, and I quote from the court documents “continuously oozed blood and puss” from the surgical site, and didn’t take her “beloved pet” to her own vet until August 31. Seriously!!! That to me is NOT a responsible pet owner. I have, and read, the 42 page discipline committee hearing document. The continuous back stroking to Dakota’s owner made me furious. Leaving your dog for 33 days with an infection is nothing but irresponsible. Period.

Dr. Mitelman is my vet and has been since he joined Vets Toronto back in 1998 or so. I couldn’t imagine taking my pets anywhere else. Dr Mitelman is a compassionate man. I’ve sadly, have had to have pets put to rest, and Dr M has been very kind. To have you, or anyone else, say he has “little sympathy” is obviously coming from people who don’t know him at all.

Dr. Mitelman has been my vet since he joined Kingston Road Animal Hospital and has always cared for my dog and cat in an extremely competent, compassionate and professional manner. I will continue to entrust my pets’ care to him. I believe he is the most capable vet I’ve encountered and will not hesitate to recommend him to my friends and family.

I support Arelene’s comments. Dr Mittleman has cared for my dog for over 11 years. I am very happy with his care of my pet and would recommend him in the future.

Dr M was thorough and compassionate with the loss of our first companion, Toby. He was always very straightforward and clear with his assessment, and thankfully for his consideration, Toby and us enjoyed another year together before his untimely end. I am saddened to hear of this assessment of dr M’s empathy, as we have had many vets, and I would trust him implicitly with our current cat and future companions.

Dr. M. has cared for my cats for many years. I have found him to be compassionate, caring, thoughtful and a truly wonderful vet. I would never take my cats anywhere else. He has often gone “above and beyond” for us and I think he is amazing.

So a man dedicates his life to the service of others and their pets, and this is how he is repaid. He is human. Humans make mistakes. No doctor or any other person will be right 100% of the time. That is guaranteed. You pay for a service knowing this in every other industry. It should be the same in healthcare.

While this vet may seem caring the facts speak otherwise, he’s been investigated by the CBC, he has hundreds of negative online reviews about his outlandish prices, he’s had his license revoked, he’s been found guilty of sexual misconduct to one of his employees. How can this man look himself in the mirror? I applaud the Beach Metro for reporting on this story the truth needs to come out.

Dr Mittleman saved my cat who had been attacked by coyotes in the Glen Davis ravine. He was attentive, caring, professional, and demonstrated clear communication skills.

Over several years, I have heard of, and encountered, some horrific nitemares and pitiful displays of dangerous treatment by vets, in Toronto personally, and all over the country, Canada and the US. I am sickened daily with stories of vets who know absolutely nothing about feline care, nutrition, and in particular, diabetes and insulin resistance issues such as feline acromegaly.
I got to talking with Dr. Mitelman and Dr. Samson at Woofstock on Queen Street in 2010, and quickly realized that I was talking to vets who knew their stuff.
I made appts to have my cat, Shadoe, who was positive for Feline Acromegaly, and then another cat, Oliver, who was positive for Feline Acromegaly and IAA. I was thrilled and may even say that I experienced Customer Delight during every single vet visit I had with them.
Both Drs. Mitelman and Samson were always attentive and well involved in working as partners with me in my cats’ treatments and needs. I have to say that just a single suggestion of B12 injections helped my cat Shadoe immensely, and when my Oliver because violently ill after regular vaccines which interacted with his pituitary tumor, they saved his life with the treatment he received.

EDITED FOR CONTENT BY BMN.

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