Veterinarians have a right to promote their practices through advertisements. However, there are ethical advertising standards each veterinarian must follow.
Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics of the AVMA:
“Advertising by veterinarians is ethical when there are no false, deceptive, or misleading statements or claims. A false, deceptive, or misleading statement or claim is one which communicates false information or is intended, through a material omission, to leave a false impression.” [AVMA Ethics Guidelines]
Honest, nondeceptive advertisements help owners make informed decisions regarding their pet’s care.
For an advertisement to be truthful, there must be evidence to back up each assertion. An advertisement is nondeceptive if it is not likely to mislead a reasonable consumer and does not omit any necessary information for the consumer to make an informed decision. Further, all material information must be disclosed in a manner that a reasonable consumer could understand.
Obviously, truthful advertising is important to both the American Veterinary Medical Association and to the Federal Trade Commission. All states have laws prohibiting false and deceptive advertising. Although every veterinarian must comply with the Federal Trade Commission, each veterinarian should be aware of their state’s laws regarding advertising.
Veterinarians should make a point to understand the law through veterinary associations and, if necessary, with the help of legal counsel. Advertisements are a great resource for veterinary practitioners. As long as veterinarians comply with state and federal law, advertising may go a long way in building mutual trust.
Stuart J. Oberman, Esq. handles a wide range of legal issues for the veterinary profession including employment law, practice sales, real estate transactions, lease agreements, OSHA compliance, veterinary board complaints, employment law, and entity formation.
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