Anyone would be a bit unnerved even thinking about someone approaching our eyes with a scalpel or a needle. So it stands to reason we want surgeries performed by well-trained surgeons.
Unfortunately, optometrists under Senate Bill 622 would not even come close to meeting that standard (“Let optometrists help ease California’s doctor shortage,” Viewpoints, May 3).
The bill would permit them to perform scalpel and laser eye surgeries and medication injections – including into the eye – without medical board oversight. It is being pushed for a fourth straight year, but there are good reasons why it has failed to pass the Legislature.
I and other California physician education leaders in California Educators in Ophthalmology for Quality Care feel a deep responsibility to prepare qualified surgeons to serve patients with expertise. Our faculties have decades of experience and work closely with trainees to ensure they meet the rigorous standard of care.
So we are united in our conviction that the minimal training outlined in this legislation would not qualify anyone to perform surgery to safe, accepted standards.
Surgery requires far more than technical skill. It involves exercising judgment to assess the need for treatment, the best technique for a given patient and the risk for complications, as well as the expertise to manage those complications, including rare and potentially dangerous ones.
Our trainees perform hundreds to thousands of supervised surgeries over years of training so we can judge the necessary progress and skill. There is no reality in which such experience could be acquired by spending a few hours in a hotel ballroom and performing a handful of procedures.
Simply put, the bill does not respect the educational process or – more importantly – patient safety. Expanding the role of optometrists without adequate training creates very real risks that far outweigh any speculative benefit.
Californians deserve far better than the potentially dangerous care that would be provided by the “surgeons” in name alone that SB 622 would create.
Mark J. Mannis is chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology and Vision Sciences at UC Davis. He is writing as an individual, not representing his institution, and can be contacted at email@example.com.