Editorials

Leave eye surgery to the ophthalmologists

Dr. Mark Whitten performs a short eye surgery procedure on patient Christianne Krupinsky in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017, to insert a Raindrop inlay, a disc implanted in the cornea to reshape it for better close-up focus. A bill in the NC legislature would allow optometrists to perform laser procedures for glaucoma or cataracts and removal of lesions around the eyes.
Dr. Mark Whitten performs a short eye surgery procedure on patient Christianne Krupinsky in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017, to insert a Raindrop inlay, a disc implanted in the cornea to reshape it for better close-up focus. A bill in the NC legislature would allow optometrists to perform laser procedures for glaucoma or cataracts and removal of lesions around the eyes. AP

Optometrists used to have a strong lobby at the N.C. General Assembly and still do. And they’re using their lobbying clout to push for a bill that would allow optometrists, who lack the extensive medical training of ophthalmologists, to perform some eye procedures that they’re not allowed to do now.

Fighting the idea are, not surprisingly, ophthalmologists, who are medical doctors with extensive training in their specialties.

The ophthalmologists are right in opposing the idea that optometrists could do laser procedures for glaucoma or cataracts and removal of lesions around the eyes. These are common, but delicate surgeries. And though many thousands of patients are amazed at the speed with which ophthalmologists can do them, they understand the incredible technical skill it takes to do the surgeries.

Optometrists argue that in many rural areas in North Carolina there are no easily accessible ophthalmologists, and that’s true. But that’s not reason enough to lower the bar on who can do certain complicated medical procedures.

Lawmakers should follow doctors’ orders here, and brush back this bill.

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