Vet struck off after forging letter to get research published

Vet struck off after forging letter to get research published

An internationally renowned vet has been struck off after writing a “bogus letter” to get her research study published.

An RCVS disciplinary committee heard Dr Sue Dyson, a European specialist in veterinary sports medicine and rehabilitation, forged a document impersonating a fictitious Home Office inspector in a bid to  show her study into the impact of heavy riders on horses had been approved by the government.

At the outset of the hearing, Dr Dyson admitted that she had written and sent the letter and that its contents were misleading and risked undermining a Government system designed to promote animal welfare and research ethics, but denied that her actions in doing so had been dishonest, claiming she had amnesia.

The RCVS disciplinary committee found that Dr Dyson was guilty of disgraceful conduct in a professional respect, after a hearing on 9 July.

The Disciplinary Committee heard that in 2018, Dr Dyson, who was then the Head of Clinical Orthopaedics at the Animal Health Trust (AHT) has completed her paper ‘Influence of rider: horse body weight ratios on equine welfare and performance – a pilot study and proposed to publish the results in the Journal of Veterinary Behaviour: Clinical Applications and Research.

After peer-reviewing the project paper at the request of Journal Editor Karen Overall, Dr Matthew Parker, a Senior Lecturer in Behavioural Pharmacology at the University of Portsmouth, was concerned by the lack of a Home Office licence and asked for details of the licence or an explanation of why the project didn’t need one, and for the paper to be re-submitted.

‘Serious professional misconduct’

In reply, Dr Dyson emailed Ms Overall stating: “We have a former Home Office Inspector on our AHT Ethical Committee and two current licence holders (Named Veterinary Surgeons) who are fully conversant with the current legislation… I also sought informal advice from a current Inspector. All were fully aware of the protocols to be employed and gave me assurance that in their opinion Home Office approval would not be required”. Ms Overall then asked Dr Dyson to obtain a letter from the Home Office to support this position.

On 24 December 2018, Dr Dyson sent Ms Overall a letter purportedly from a Home Office Inspector called Dr Butler who, she explained, had advised her during the planning phase of the project.

However further enquiries to the Home Office by Dr Whiting confirmed that the Home Office had no record of employing a Dr Butler who was in fact ficttitous.

In reaching its decisions, the Committee considered Dr Dyson’s previously impeccable character, the written and verbal testimonies from witnesses. However, it did not accept Dr Dyson’s claims that she had amnesia at this time, and considered that she had not owned up to her wrongdoing until it was discovered.

It found that Dr Dyson’s conduct had breached parts of the RCVS Code of Professional Conduct for Veterinary Surgeons and amounted to serious professional misconduct, concluding that “it was important that a clear message be sent that this sort of behaviour is wholly inappropriate and [was] not to be tolerated”.

Committee chair Dr Jane Downes concluded the public interest in maintaining confidence in the profession of veterinary surgeons, meant that a period of suspension would not be sufficient and that the only appropriate and proportionate sanction in all the circumstances of this case was that of removal from the Register.

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