All doctors pledge to protect their patients, so it’s disappointing that some Florida lawmakers uphold the law that puts patients at risk. Congress is considering Senate Bill 876 and House Bill 631, which will allow optometrists who are neither doctors nor trained surgeons to perform surgery inside and outside the eye using lasers and scalpels. I will.
Ophthalmologists are doctors and surgeons who have been trained for over 17,000 hours, especially for eye surgery. They completed four years of medical school, followed by one year of hospital internship and three years of surgical training. Most people complete an additional year or two of fellowship training and nearly 10 years of post-undergraduate training to become an ophthalmologist.
Meanwhile, optometers complete approximately 2,000 hours of training throughout the four-year optometry school. Surgical training consists of a 32-hour crash course that can be completed over the weekend.
No matter what optometrists say, there is no such thing as “minor” eye surgery. All eye surgery is risky and requires the utmost care and attention of an experienced surgeon with many years of extensive education. Surgery is by no means a trivial “minor procedure”.
Ask my patient who reported the spot of vision recurrence to the optometrist. The optometrist told him that those spots would disappear naturally. However, his ophthalmologist found tears in his retina. It left a permanent vision problem in his right eye because they were misdiagnosed.
The case of this patient is not unique. It stems directly from the lack of education and training. According to a report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the incidence of follow-up surgery required is significantly higher than when certain types of glaucoma laser surgery are performed by an ophthalmologist.
Undoubtedly, optometrists are important members of the ophthalmology team and provide important services such as eye tests and contact lens fitting. But they are not doctors or trained surgeons. And giving them surgical privileges through the law is irresponsible and dangerous. Without nearly a decade of clinical training and medical education, which are essential to keeping patients safe, no one can safely perform surgery.
The Florida State Assembly has the opportunity to protect patients and their safety. However, despite false information and clever attempts at billing to give surgical privileges to under-trained people, they are initially behind patients, doctors, and the safety requirements being enforced. You need to listen to a certain science.
Training, education, and clinical experience protect the people we serve, and Florida law is carefully designed to do so. No changes need to be made to create two separate criteria for surgical safety. The Florida State Assembly must stand firmly against SB876 and HB631.
Dr. Sara Wellick is President of the Florida Ophthalmology Society. He is a professor of clinical ophthalmology and director of glaucoma services at UHealth Plantation, Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, and University of Miami School of Medicine.