The eye doctor was very convincing. He told the patient she needed cataract surgery.
Her only complaint was some slight blurriness when she went to see the eye doctor. That was it.
The ophthalmologist convinced the patient she needed cataract surgery and that the surgery was a ‘routine’ procedure. “You’ll be in and out same day and everything will be fine,” he reassured her.
The patient had no reason to disagree with the doctor. She liked him. He sounded confident. He seemed like he’d done this procedure many times before.
She had all these eye tests after agreeing to have the surgery. Her new intraocular lens was carefully calculated for the correct power. According to the assistants in the eye doctor’s office, everything was accurate and she was all set to go.
On the day of the surgery everything goes well. No complications.
The next day, when the patient returns to the doctor’s office for follow up, he takes the eye patch off and asks the patient “So? What do you see?”
The patient says “I can barely see anything. Everything is really blurry.”
The doctor immediately does tests that reveal something unusual. The lens is not the correct power for this patient’s vision. Yet everything matched up correctly pre-operatively and also during the surgery.
The doctor re-calculates the correct lens power and tells the patient “I’m sorry but I have to take you back into surgery and switch out your current lens with a new one. That will fix everything.”
The patient agreed. She wanted her sight back and eagerly agreed.
She had the corrective surgery the next day. The calculations were now correct.
The plan was for the doctor to remove the intraocular lens that he had put in the day before with a new one. That was the plan.
It worked...until the doctor tried to remove the original lens. He had a problem during the removal of the intraocular lens. It wouldn’t come out easily. He had a difficult time getting it out. Finally he was able to switch out the lenses.
He sent the patient home to follow up in the office the next day.
The patient dutifully returned the next day. The doctor removed the eye patch and then with anticipation asked the patient “So? What do you see?”
Her reply shocked him. Her reply shocked her.
“I can’t see anything. Some black and white shadow but that’s it!” she screamed.
“What’s going on?” she demanded.
The doctor rechecked his calculations. They were accurate now. He rechecked her eyes. He couldn’t figure out why his patient could no longer see. He immediately sent her to be evaluated by a retina specialist and another specialist and another.
They all came back with the same answer...
“She has permanent damage to her eye. She will never see again.”
The patient was totally frustrated. She went into the cataract surgery with only a slight blurriness that wasn’t even bothering her. She finally decided to get legal advice.
We obtained her medical records and had them thoroughly reviewed by a board certified ophthalmologist. The conclusion was that this surgery should NEVER have been performed. Turns out that this patient was never a candidate for cataract surgery. Maybe in ten or fifteen years, but not now.
My eye expert determined that the doctor who did the eye surgery violated a key safety rule... “First, do no harm. Do not operate on a patient who does not need surgery.”
The second rule he violated was that he miscalculated the intraocular lens. That required him to perform the second surgery where he encountered the complication in removing the lens. That caused the underlying injury that explained why the patient could no longer see.
When a doctor deviates from the baseline standard of medical care, he will be held accountable for his actions.