Common Eye Operations – LASIK – Risks & Legal Remedies

LASIK Eye Surgery – Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis (LASIK) is a surgical procedure that permanently alters the shape of the cornea in order to decrease the patient’s dependency on glasses or contacts. The doctor uses a blade or laser to cut a flap in the cornea, folds the flap open, and uses a controlled laser to vaporize a portion of the stroma.

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Approximately 700,000 LASIK procedures are performed annually, and about 85% of patients achieve 20/20 vision as a result of the surgery. LASIK surgery, on average, costs approximately $4,000 for both eyes. Further, because it is considered an elective procedure by most large insurance companies, the procedure is not typically covered by the patient’s medical insurance plan.

Despite the costs associated with the procedure, the surgery is as popular as ever. Nevertheless, there can be complications and side effects involved. These side effects include: glare and sensitivity to light, dry eyes, poor night vision, fluctuations in vision, seeing “halos” around light sources, corneal bulging, and even a decrease in vision.

Complications following LASIK surgery have resulted in successful medical malpractice lawsuits in Pennsylvania. In addition to the doctor performing the procedure, hospitals, clinics, and other outpatient centers may be held liable through both vicarious and corporate liability theories.

Eye Whitening Surgery

Developed approximately 4 years ago, eye whitening surgery is an increasingly popular procedure used to minimize the effects of aging on the eyes. The procedure surgically decreases blood flow in order to prevent the growth of blood vessels in the eyes. Like LASIK, eye whitening surgery is considered elective and is not covered by most insurance plans. The surgery costs, on average, between $3,000 and $5,000 per eye. Despite its growing popularity in the United States, the surgery is known to be associated with many complications. These complications are significant enough that the surgery has been outright banned in some countries. Some of the side effects and complications include: vision loss, increased redness, and increased irritation. These complications can sometimes require a secondary corrective procedure. Under Pennsylvania law, doctors performing eye whitening surgery, and the healthcare centers in which the surgeries are performed, can be held liable for any injuries/damages caused as a result of any deviation from the applicable standards of care.

Legal Remedies To Complications and Side Effects Associated with Eye Surgery

In order to establish a medical malpractice claim in Pennsylvania, a claimant must prove:

  1. the medical practitioner owed a duty to him or her.
  2. the practitioner breached that duty.
  3. the breach was the proximate cause or a substantial factor in causing the harm.
  4. the damages suffered were a direct result of the harm. Further, hospitals, clinics, and outpatient surgical centers can be held vicariously liable (i.e. employer liability for the acts of its employees) for the individual doctor’s negligence.

Alternatively, corporate liability may be applied to the healthcare facilities if they violate duties of care owed to the patient, such as: the duty to maintain safe and adequate equipment, the duty to employ only competent physicians, the duty to oversee all persons who practice medicine within the facility, and the duty to formulate and enforce adequate rules and regulations to ensure quality care.

Both New Jersey and Pennsylvania mandate a 2 year Statute of Limitations for medical malpractice cases. Generally, a patient has 2 years from the date of malpractice to file a claim, but the “Discovery Rule” allows a patient to extend that 2 year period for 2 years from the date the patient knew, or reasonably should have known, of the alleged malpractice. In Pennsylvania, the legislature has adopted the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error (MCARE) Act, which includes a Statute of Repose provision. The Statute of Repose abolishes most medical malpractice claims if they are not brought within 7 years of the injury. The Statute of Repose does not apply to situations where a foreign object has been left within a patient’s body, where the doctor or medical facility has fraudulently concealed, or misrepresented, the nature of the malpractice, or where a minor is involved (minors have until their 20th birthday to file a claim). Unlike the Statute of Limitations, which does not begin to run until the harm has been discovered; the Statute of Repose begins to run from the date of the procedure regardless of when the harm or injury is discovered.

What to do in the event of side effects or complications following eye surgery:

  • Do not wait to begin considering your options;
  • Schedule an appointment with the doctor who performed the surgery promptly, and get answers to all your questions;
  • Obtain a second opinion from a doctor who specializes in that field;
  • Depending upon the results of the second opinion, begin considering your legal options; and
  • At all times, keep in mind that there is a 2 year Statute of Limitations and, if in Pennsylvania, a 7 year Statute of Repose

Civil actions against physicians and healthcare organizations can be complicated and can involve the interpretation of voluminous and intricate medical records and consultations with specialized medical experts. The help of a Pennsylvania and New Jersey trained medical malpractice attorney can be crucial to obtaining the desired result. Slade McLaughlin and Paul Lauricella have been listed in “Best Lawyers in America” and are generally considered to be among the best medical malpractice attorneys in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. You can contact our team of medical malpractice attorneys in our Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and/or our Mount Laurel, New Jersey offices.

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