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F E Smith
F E Smith, Advocate
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 18742
Experience:  I have been practising for 30 years.
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This is very hard. My cat passed away on Wednesday, whilst

Customer Question

JA: Hi. How can I help?
Customer: This is very hard. My cat passed away on Wednesday, whilst coming out of anaesthetic.
JA: Where are you? It matters because laws vary by location.
Customer: After an initial appointment, he'd been having a hacking cough once, or twice a week, and showed a video of it to the vets. I'm in Oxfordshire
JA: What steps have you taken so far?
Customer: My cat didn't have water or food from about 8pm the previous day. I didn't know when he would be seen on the day of the procedure but it turns out he wasn't put under until around 3pm. Could the fact that he didn't have water/food for around 19 hours put him under more risk?
JA: Is there anything else the Lawyer should know before I connect you? Rest assured that they'll be able to help you.
Customer: They said that he had respiratory failure followed by a cardiac arrest. They brought him back but he crashed again and he didn't make it.
Submitted: 13 days ago.
Category: Law
Customer: replied 13 days ago.
They suspected he had asthma, hence they did X-rays and took samples. I thought it was asthma too as I'd seen a YouTube video of a cat with the same type of cough.
Expert:  F E Smith replied 13 days ago.

Welcome to Just Answer.

I will be happy to assist with your question today. I need some time to consider this and compose a response. There is NO need to wait online because you will get an email when I respond. Sometimes it will be minutes, sometimes longer.

I apologise for any unavoidable delay, but rest assured I have not forgotten your question.

I'm very sorry to hear about your cat -

what would you like to know about this matter please?

Customer: replied 13 days ago.
I want to know if they compromised his health by the fact that he hadn't had fluids for around 19 hours, by delaying doing the procedure to 3pm in the afternoon. I asked on the morning when he would undergo the procedure but wasn't given a direct answer. If I'd known it would be as late as 3pm, I would have declined going through with it, opting for a day whereby he could have had it early morning. Other than that, whether or not there were steps they could have taken, other tests, before opting for a general anaesthetic, which put him at greater risk.
Customer: replied 13 days ago.
He's a big cat weighing more than 6 kg. He was well in that he was eating very well - he had a big appetite.
Customer: replied 13 days ago.
I understand that they are going to have the X-rays looked at by a radiographer, as the vet said there was something she wasn't happy about. Also the samples they took I believe are being sent for tests.
Expert:  F E Smith replied 13 days ago.

It will help if I explain how claims in negligence arise.

There needs to be

1.    a duty of care

2.    the duty of care needs to be breached

3.    as a result of the breach there needs to be loss or injury

4.    the loss or injury must be as a result of the breach

5.    the loss or injury resulting from the breach must be reasonably foreseeable.

In order for there to be a claim in negligence, all 5 heads have to be satisfied.

Although a party may be able to opt out of negligence claims in respect of damage to property by having a contract or disclaimer, it is not possible to opt out of personal injury or death as a result of negligence.

The relevant statute is the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 (UCTA).

However even a disclaimer in respect of negligence claims with regard to damage to property will only be applicable if it passes the UCTA test of “reasonableness”.  You would need to Google the Act to get all the details of that but basically a person can’t exclude liability for claims in negligence in respect of damage to property to basically do what they like, and drive a coach and horses through all their obligations.

An animal (or human) would not normally have anything to eat or drink for at least 12 hours before any kind of procedure involving a general anaesthetic.  This is to avoid the complication of choking on vomit.  If someone has eaten or drink anything within a 12 hour period, it’s possible for the surgeons to deal with it if it’s under a general anaesthetic because of for example someone’s had a car accident, the medical practitioner has no control over whether they’ve eaten or drunk anything recently.  However it gives them something else to deal with which is why there is the nil by mouth thing.

I am not a vet but it seems unlikely that having no food or water for 24 hours is going to make any difference to the animals welfare.

I spoke about this to the daughter of a friend of mine who happens to be a vet and that is what she said.

Moving back to the criteria for negligence, for there to be a claim, the incident needs to be reasonably foreseeable and this is not reasonably foreseeable.  You need to remember that any kind of general anaesthetic always carries a risk.

I am an animal lover myself and I know your pain so please don’t think for one minute that I’m dismissing this but I think it’s going to be a very difficult claim to bring even if there is a claim.  Evidentially it’s going to be a bit of a nightmare.

Even then, the conclusion may be that it would have happened anyway.

You say he was a big cat but I don’t know whether you mean big as in the size of a lion (exaggerating to prove the point) or whether he was overweight.  That can be a contributing factor.

I’m sorry, I know it’s not the answer you wanted.

I am glad to help.

Hopefully, I have answered your query in a way that is simple and easy to understand.

I would be more than happy to clarify anything else for you. In the meantime, thank you once again for using our services.

I am happy to answer any specific points arising from this.

Please be aware that my answer is based strictly upon the information you have given me.

If you still need any points clarifying, I will be happy to reply because the thread does not close. In fact, it remains open indefinitely.

I am always happy to answer any further questions you have on any new thread in which case, please start your question with, “ For FES only”.

That only applies to new threads, not this one. You have me exclusively on this one.

Thank you.

Best wishes.


Customer: replied 13 days ago.
Thank you for your answer. My concern over the lack of fluids was that maybe the lack of lubrication contributed to him having what they said was a spasm. I understand not having anything for 12 hours, but given his symptoms, were they unduly putting him at risk, by a) giving him a G.A. in the first place and b) his not having had fluids for about 19 hours. He was big, but not overweight. He was a Ragdoll cat and they are known to grow large in size, especially the males. I suppose the bot***** *****ne is, I want to know from them that they did everything correctly in their duty of care, given what they suspected to be the reason for this hacking cough/suspected asthma. Was it the correct course of action for him and could his death have been avoided by their doing other tests ahead of the G.A.
Expert:  F E Smith replied 13 days ago.

Ragdoll answers my question as to the size of the cat.  Thank you.

This is not so much a legal question as a veterinary question.

What you might want to do is post the question on Just Answer veterinary and then depending on the reply you get, come back on here.

I have actually used our own Veterinary Experts to ask questions of my own animals myself on numerous occasions and they are very good.

Customer: replied 13 days ago.
Sorry, I thought this was Just answer Veterinary, until you said you weren't actually a vet. Do I have access on the same membership? I googled Justanswerveterinary, and I get to the same website, and then it flips to your answer as soon as I log in. I'm a bit confused. How do I put the question to an actual vet please? Thanks
Expert:  F E Smith replied 13 days ago.

You posted the question in UK law and it came across as looking for a potential negligence claim which is why it was picked up by me.

I don’t actually know how the Just Answer backend system works but I do know that when I need to ask a question I cannot use my own experts account.  I need another account.

If all else fails, start afresh with a different username and password.

If you try posting a new question in your current account, whether you can put it in veterinary depends on whether you see a drop-down menu.

You can also contact Customer Services who you will find very helpful.  Kind regards