Supervet Noel Fitzpatrick on emotional toll of malpractice accusations ‘I was suicidal’

The Supervet: Noel praises owners for their love for dog

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The Supervet grew in fame due to his incredible skills and life-saving techniques but after Hermes, a tortoise Noel Fitzpatrick operated on in 2018 died, he was investigated over accusations of malpractice. The vet fitted three bionic limbs to the animal but two months later, Hermes died due to suspected gastroenteric problems.

Noel spoke candidly about the toll complaints from his peers to the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons following Hermes death had.

In conversation with Lauren Laverne on Desert Island Discs, Noel detailed why he operated before revealing he was “suicidal” in the aftermath.

Lauren asked: “You certainly don’t shy away from the tragedies you deal with as part of your job on a day to day basis.

“A case in point is the story of a young tortoise named Hermes, now three of his legs had been eaten by rats when he was in hibernation and he really came to you in a very sorry state. What informed your decision to operate?”

“What was going through my head was, ‘Is it ethical to try and save this animals life even if it is possible?’ Just because something is possible doesn’t mean it is the right thing to do,” Noel replied.

“Anyway, having taken all of that advice and gone through dozens of hours of planning, we set out to take off the infected portions of the limbs and subsequently implanted three bionic limbs as we alluded to with Storm [another animal], which were actually working very well when unfortunately Hermes the tortoise had a probable gastroenteric problem and died. That was well after what I had done.”

Lauren confirmed it was “two months later” as Noel continued: “Yes and we were very transparent about that on the television show but a number of veterinarians complained to my governing body, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons that I was guilty of malpractice.

“I have no acrimony against them, they are trying to do the right thing, they are trying to look after the welfare of the animal as they see it.

“But in this case, they felt that I didn’t look after the ethical welfare of Hermes enough and they wouldn’t have done it. They would not have offered this option to Hermes. “

Lauren asked: “What was the emotional toll of that for you, of your moral and ethical obligations which you quite clearly care so passionately about being questioned?”

“I was suicidal. Yeah, that’s the nuts and bolts of it,” Noel answered.

When asked what got him through that period, the Supervet explained: “My girlfriend’s been great, my dog Keira’s been great, Ricochet my cat came in, our cat came into my life at that time and since then, Excalibre another cat.

“Ricochet reached down with his big black paw and pulled me out of my misery told me ‘Daddy it’s okay.’”

Lauren told viewers: “After 14 months Noel, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons concluded that euthanasia should have been recommended for Hermes but you were cleared of serious malpractice.

“What helped you get back on track once that experience was behind you?”

“Going on to treat another patient another day,” Noel explained.

Also during the chat with Lauren, Noel revealed he was bullied as a schoolboy and had an early acting career.

He also spoke candidly about his relationship with his late father and assured his mother “it wasn’t her fault” he was beaten up at school.

The full interview is available to listen to on BBC Sounds.

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