A comparison to a totalitarian regime and the current veterinary medical system governance
I was hoping that this moment would never come; however, today, I have decided to renounce my Canadian veterinary licence in my home province of British Columbia.
The purpose of sharing the following information is not to accuse anyone of any wrongdoing. It could be easy to slip into the position of a victim, but it would not be helpful. I also want to emphasize that, during the 30 years of being a veterinarian and 23 years of holding my Canadian veterinary licence, my professional skills and conduct have not been questioned by the College of Veterinarians of British Columbia.
My intention here is to provide you with insight into a system that is deeply flawed and, in my opinion, threatens the ethical principles of medicine and the safety and health of our beloved pets.
In order to understand where I am coming from, let me share my background. This year, on August 27, 2018, it will be exactly 27 years since I moved to Canada from the Czech Republic after 27 years of life behind “the Iron Curtain.”
It may surprise you when I say that life in the Eastern Bloc was quite similar to Western countries. We went to school or work, went away on holidays to lakes and cottages on the weekends and spent time with friends and family. Besides the occasional shortages of consumer goods such as toilet paper, bikes, and color TVs, most people lived normal lives and enjoyed free education and health care as long as they followed the rules.
Here are the key characteristics of the totalitarian regime I experienced firsthand:
- The communist party claimed it was there to protect the well-being and safety of the people.
- There were no other political parties or ideologies allowed. There was only one ideology that was officially endorsed by the party, Marxism-Leninism. Any other ideology was either considered inferior or was forbidden as dangerous.
- The laws were created by the party to control people, and their loose interpretation was used to intimidate and eliminate anyone who was inconvenient. A good example from Czech history was the case of a lawyer and a politician, Milada Horakova, who survived a concentration camp, only to be imprisoned and executed by the communist party. Another example was Vaclav Havel, who later became the first democratically elected president.
- The Soviet occupation was portrayed as friendly “assistance and protection” from the evil imperialism while in reality, it was there to occupy a country and oppress democracy and free speech.
- Anyone who disagreed with the official doctrine was ostracized, ousted, ridiculed, marginalized, imprisoned, or even executed in the early days to intimidate others and prevent them from doing the same.
- It was hard to recognize who in the communist party really believed the propaganda, who loved the power, and who was just scared to speak up and face the consequences.
I witnessed our family friend, a kind and peaceful man, go to prison for telling a joke about the communist president after being reported by an anonymous informer.
This brings me to the seventh characteristic of the totalitarian regime.
7. There was no one, with the exception of close family members, that one could really trust. Anyone could be a secret police informant, and such people received special privileges and protection. Everyone was afraid, no one spoke out, and the few who did were punished.
The Iron Curtain Fell
In 1989, when the Iron Curtain fell, I remember the feeling of disbelief. No one saw this coming in their lifetime. I was excited to see the Velvet Revolution and the democratic process take place, but as a newly graduated veterinarian, I was having a hard time finding a job, and the future of Eastern Europe was still uncertain. I made the decision to immigrate to Canada.
The initial years were harder than expected. I had to learn English, work full-time as a veterinary attendant, and study for the Veterinary National Board Exam certification. I finally obtained my Canadian veterinary licence in 1995.
For several months, the drug manufacturer denied any possibility of a connection with their medication. Eventually, there were too many cases for them to hide the truth. Their drug was taken off the market.
I had another experience witnessing seizures in a dog that had received a flea preventive 10 minutes earlier. I also witnessed many medical conditions resolving spontaneously after dogs were taken off kibble and introduced to raw or homemade cooked diets.
Eventually, I registered for Dr. Richard Pitcairn’s course in veterinary homeopathy and opened my own veterinary clinic. My goal was to integrate the knowledge of conventional and natural medical treatments and to reduce the side-effects of drugs.
Just a few weeks after opening my clinic, the owner of the neighbouring clinic wrote an article against holistic medicine and homeopathy. A few months later, another clinic owner filed a complaint against my clinic name, Natural Veterinary Services, which had in fact been approved by what was then the BC Veterinary Medical Association.
I went with the path of least resistance, changed my clinic name, and went on practicing without being targeted for many years. The practice became very busy and I saw that many dogs and cats actually had preventable ailments. The problem was that there was no time to teach prevention.
This is when I decided to transition from a clinic to a house call practice to free-up some time for writing and teaching dog lovers how to prevent disease and feed a natural diet. In 2008, I received permission from the college to use the name "Dr. Dobias Healing Solutions" for my new company.
There were many challenges in the first six years because it was all so new, and I made many costly mistakes that resulted in a few close calls for the company. Providing free information was actually very expensive.
My lifelong interest in nutrition and the struggle to find good supplements for my patients and my dog Skai eventually led me to create my own natural line of supplements and products. We focused on sourcing top quality ingredients and finely tuning the formulas, and the positive reviews and testimonials started coming in. It was great to see we were making a difference.
A couple of years ago, I wrote an article about the Vancouver SPCA, which forced my friend’s foster puppy to be neutered at the time when it was displaying neurological tremors of unknown origin. This article resulted in the CEO of SPCA filing a complaint against me.
After this, I received several letters from the College of Veterinarians of British Columbia with the following demands:
- Cease using my name on any of my products. I was no longer allowed to use “Dr. Dobias” in my company’s name Dr. Dobias Healing Solutions Inc., despite the fact that I had received formal permission from the College’s predecessor in 2008.
- Stop posting any feedback, reviews or testimonials about my product line on my website as this was contrary to the College’s bylaws.
- When writing articles, always suggest conventional methods first and suggest holistic methods as an alternative if they don’t work, emphasizing that they are not scientifically proven. When I suggested that this is a double standard, as much of conventional veterinary medicine treatments is not scientifically proven, the official replied: “Yes, it is a double standard.”
- I was also reported for having engaged in “a fake university” by one of the dog magazines. (This was untrue).
Most recently, the College sent me an email message from someone, with the name and contact blanked out. The sender called me “a snake oil salesman” and said that he/she trusted that the College would “take care of me”. The person declined to file an official complaint, but the College sent the email to me anyway which is not the normal process.
The BC College of Veterinarians set out two options:
- Give up my company name, customer feedback, and reviews; or,
- Surrender my licence
How I made my decision
I was looking for a house swap to spend Christmas in the Czech Republic with my mother and family. When I got the address, I was shocked to realize that it was the building in which Vaclav Havel, the imprisoned dissident, playwright, and the first democratically elected Czech president, had lived before he died.
And then it dawned on me. There were striking similarities between my experience of the totalitarian regime of the Eastern Bloc and what was going on at the College of Veterinarians of British Columbia.
Below is the list I have shared at the top of this article for ease of comparison:
- The communist party claimed that it was there to protect the wellbeing and safety of the people. // The college claims that it is there to protect the public from poor practice standards and to prevent lay people from practicing medicine without a licence. Unlike human medicine, even well-educated animal practitioners, such as chiropractors and physiotherapists, are only allowed to practice under a veterinarian’s supervision.
- There were no other political parties or ideologies allowed. // Conventional medicine is the accepted standard of care when it comes to evaluating a practitioner’s abilities.
- The laws were created by the party members without any democratic involvement of the general public. // The College of Veterinarians of British Columbia's bylaws were self-created by the college members without the democratic participation of the public.
- The Soviet occupation was portrayed as offering friendly “assistance and protection” from the evil imperialism while, in reality, it was there to occupy a country and oppress democracy and free speech. // The College's official mandate is to protect the public, yet, it actively prohibits free speech and informing the general public about issues and problems in the current medical system. This has eroded the trust of the public in the integrity of the veterinary profession.
- No one was allowed to publicly disagree with the communist party’s official doctrine. Anyone who disagreed with the official communist party doctrine was ostracized, ousted, ridiculed, or marginalized. // The college prohibits its members from publicly speaking about other colleagues or criticizing the bylaws.
- It was hard to recognize who in the communist party really believed the propaganda, who loved the power, and who was just scared to speak up and face the consequences. // The CVBC is not much different. When I talk to members, they appear friendly and kind, which makes it impossible to recognize who agrees with what is going on, who seeks power, and who is quiet out of fear of losing their job.
- There was no one, with the exception of a close family member, who could really trust in a totalitarian regime as it was built on the premise of anonymous informants. // I was reported and complained about by an anonymous informant whose name was blanked out by the CVBC.
Over the years, I have seen the reputation of doctors and veterinarians suffer. There seems to be a disconnect between our profession and our clients. I often hear people who are disillusioned and unhappy that our profession has "gone to bed with" drug and pet food companies. All one needs to do is look at the sponsorship page of any veterinary conference.
It is evident from human medicine that combining conventional and natural medicine with wholesome nutrition benefits health. There are not many doctors who say processed food is better than a natural diet, yet many veterinarians still defend the processed food dogma.
The interest in a natural diet and alternative medicine is rising and, while the change is happening slowly but surely on the practice level, the veterinary education system is still dominated by the pharmaceutical and pet food industries.
A veterinary student who chooses not to follow the accepted practices will fail exams, and vets who do not practice conventional medicine take the risk of being reported and ostracized and losing their licence.
Most vets who learn how to use natural alternatives find them generally useful. It is mostly vets who are not familiar with such modalities who call them inappropriate or dangerous.
I trust that this letter is the start of the much-needed conversation and shift towards “medical democracy.” I decided to give up my licence to be able to freely communicate what is happening and to be able to continue helping with disease prevention, holistic approaches to disease, and natural nutrition.
I believe that progress in medicine can be achieved through collaboration, unbiased research and freedom of speech. However, history has shown that the road to change is full of obstacles and is never straightforward.
This year, I am exactly at a balancing point. I lived in a totalitarian regime for 27 years and I have spent 27 years in Canada. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to live in such a good country but I can also see the gradual tendency to loss of freedoms and abuse of power by any governing body. The tightening up happens insidiously, yet it can be a serious threat to our democracy.
Thank you for sharing this message with your family and friends. If you would like to share your ideas, thoughts, and comments on this topic, I welcome you to join the conversation on Facebook.
PS: A SPECIAL MESSAGE to Mr./Ms. Anonymous,
I am not sure who you are, but one day you may see conventional treatment methods fail you, your dog, or family member. I suspect that then you will be willing to use ANY METHOD to get more time with those you love. You see, this is how my clients and customers feel too. They love their dogs and do not want to lose them.
When you, Mr./Ms. Anonymous called me “a snake oil salesman” who sells his products through his "sleek website” I took it as a compliment. You see, it is not an easy job to build a good website, nor is it easy to formulate all-natural supplements and products and get five-star reviews and positive feedback.
And when it comes to medical modalities, I see them as a language. Just because someone doesn’t understand a language, it does not mean others can’t use it to communicate.
Mr/Ms. Anonymous, I would be happy have a friendly conversation and trust that in the end, we may even find a common note.