The Newmans put poor Trali to sleep on the advice of their vets.
Des Moines couple Kenneth and Nonna Newman really loved their dog. When Trali, a Pekingese, developed a herniated disc in 2006, they spent thousands of dollars on MRIs and surgery, according to their attorney, Adam Karp.
Two veterinarians eventually persuaded Nonna that "if she really loved her dog enough, she would consent to euthanasia," as the Newmans recall in legal documents (see pdf).
The Newmans complied but later received medical information that led them to believe that Trali could have been successfully treated and didn't need to be put to sleep. developed euthanizer's remorse. They filed a complaint with the state's Veterinary Board of Governors. When the board declined to discipline the vets involved, the Newmans took the matter to court. Yesterday, the state Court of Appeals ruled that the couple wasn't entitled to any kind of judicial review.
And there's more at stake in the ruling than just accountability for the fate of one sick Pekingese.
Karp says the ruling will also apply to disciplinary decisions involving other health professionals--doctors, nurses, psychologists, massage therapists. The judges are saying that it's up to the state boards and commissions that govern these professions whether discipline is warranted. And if patients (or their owners) don't like the state's decisions, there is, in Karp's words, "nothing you can do about it." (Though, of course, wronged patients can still sue for malpractice on their own behalf.)
The court ruled that the Newmans didn't have legal "standing," in part because they could not prove that they were injured by the state's decision not to discipline the vets.
Rather, the court noted, it is license holders--vets, doctors, and so on--who have standing to question disciplinary decisions because they are at risk of losing their livelihoods.
Nonna, who works as a contract bargainer for the SEIU, says the ruling made her feel like "Trali was killed all over again." She and her husband, a seafood executive, are considering whether to appeal to the state Supreme Court.