“This Bill Waters Down Safety Standards and Puts Patients at Risk.”
Statement by Dr. Sarah Wellik, President of the Florida Society of Ophthalmology:
“We are disappointed today that the Florida House Professions and Public Health Subcommittee has chosen to move House Bill 631 forward. This dangerous bill overrides years of medical and surgical training by granting surgical privileges through legislation and puts patients directly at risk.
With word manipulation, HB 631 as amended would allow optometrists to perform laser surgery inside the globe of the eye, scalpel surgery on the eyelid surgery to cut and remove skin lesions which could be cancerous, and injections of potent medication into the eyelid with a needle, where a surgical error of just one millimeter could have drastic and sight-threatening consequences for the patient. Furthermore, the bill would allow the Florida Board of Optometry–a regulatory board lacking any medical doctors or surgeons–complete autonomous authority to determine any and all surgeries optometrists could perform with negligible training consisting of as little as a 32-hour weekend course.
While valued members of the eye care team, optometrists are not medical doctors or trained surgeons. Surgery and injections on and around the eye should only be performed by an ophthalmologist, a medical doctor and eye surgeon who has the proper education, training, and clinical experience to safely operate, handle any immediate surgical complications that might arise, and the judgement to know when it’s even appropriate to operate and when it’s not.
We thank those subcommittee members who voted today to protect patient safety. We will continue to impress upon Florida lawmakers that the amendment made today in the subcommittee was nothing more thanlinguistic sleight-of-hand by the bill’s proponents, and that HB 631–and it’s Senate companion, SB 876–are still very much dangerous to patients by allowing optometrists to perform delicate and invasive eye surgery with scalpels and lasers. A 32-hour crash course is no substitute for the years of medical school, hospital internship, and surgical residency as a pathway to becoming an eye surgeon.
We are committed to working with legislators to prevent misinformation and word manipulation from guiding their decision-making on an issue so important to the health and surgical safety of Floridians throughout the entire state.”
Visit SafeSurgeryFL.com to help advocate for patient safety and view testimonies from patients on the dangers of non-medical professionals performing eye surgeries.
About the Florida Society of Ophthalmology
The Florida Society of Ophthalmology (FSO) has a rich history of serving patients since its founding in 1939 as the Florida Society of Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology. Today, the organization represents more than 500 physician members throughout the state and is focused on advancing patient care and protecting the medical specialty of ophthalmology. For more information, please visit the FSO website at www.mdeye.org.