Medical malpractice that occurs in the course of an ophthalmological procedure can result in devastating ocular impairments, up to and including the loss of vision. Ophthalmology errors, like many surgical errors, don’t just affect the victim’s vision; they affect the patient’s emotional and psychological well-being. The victims of ophthalmological malpractice may be able to recover the cost of medical expenses and lost wages, as well as other compensatory and punitive damages.
What Are Ophthalmology Errors?
Ophthalmology errors come in many forms. In some instances, a medical professional fails to diagnose an eye condition, misdiagnoses an eye condition, or is responsible for the delayed diagnosis of an eye condition. In these circumstances, the failure to promptly or correctly diagnose an eye condition can result in delayed treatment or no treatment at all, which can in turn result in the loss of vision. In other cases, an ophthalmologist might fail to fully inform the patient of the risks associated with a particular treatment, resulting in the patient going into a treatment without the information they need to fully consent. In some cases an ophthalmologist might make mistakes during the course of an operation, neglect to conduct or order the proper tests, or neglect to fully gather the patient’s medical history. In others, an ophthalmologist might decline to consult a specialist—for instance, a corneal or retinal specialist—or fail to provide adequate monitoring or care after an ophthalmological operation.
A 2018 study published by the American Academy of Ophthalmology reviewed ten years of liability claims against ophthalmologists, finding that cataracts and myopia were the conditions most likely to result in a claim. The study also found that cataract surgery and corneal surgery were the ophthalmological procedures “most associated with a closed claim.” The study’s authors stressed the importance of “careful informed consent and attentive follow up.” An article published by the Review of Ophthalmology in 2021 similarly stressed the importance of informed consent, citing an expert who said that “deficient informed consent is often to blame” for malpractice claims. A 2020 article published in the journal Clinical Ophthalmology reported that ophthalmic trauma—eye injuries, that is—is “a common cause of vision loss around the world responsible for an estimated 19 million cases of monocular blindness, representing a significant cause of loss of productivity and decreased quality of life.”
With respect to cataract surgery, a 2020 article published by WebMD reported that possible complications include infection, inflammation, retinal detachment, lens fragments, fluid buildup in the patient’s retina, dislocated intraocular lens, secondary cataracts, corneal swelling, bleeding, floaters, flashes of light, high eye pressure (also known as ocular hypertension), light sensitivity, droopy eyelids, and dysphotopsia. A 2013 study found that while complications stemming from cataract surgeries are rare, factors that contribute to complications include surgeons with limited experience performing the operation.
With respect to cornea and refractive surgery, a 2018 article published by the journal Cornea reviewed 159 cornea and refractive surgery malpractice claims between 1964 and 2014, finding that the most common types of claims were “laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis and corneal transplant claims.” The study’s authors noted that cornea surgery and refractive surgery “is a high-risk subspecialty of ophthalmology,” and that numerous cases involved negligent treatment of patients with surgical contraindications. The study stressed “the importance of detailed informed consent discussions, realistic goal setting with patients, and thorough examinations and preoperative evaluation.”
What Can I Do If I’m a Victim of Ophthalmology Errors?
To be clear, not all ophthalmological errors are the result of malpractice. Generally speaking, malpractice victims must demonstrate that they had a doctor-patient relationship with their ophthalmologist; that their ophthalmologist owed them a duty of care, that is, a level of care that a skilled, competent, reasonable doctor would have provided in similar conditions; that their ophthalmologist failed to uphold that duty of care; and that this failure resulted in damages to the patient. Demonstrating these elements can be very complex, which is why the victims of ophthalmological malpractice should be careful to retain the counsel of seasoned, knowledgeable malpractice attorneys. The medical malpractice attorneys at the Law Offices of Thomas L. Gallivan have decades of experience holding New York-area medical practitioners accountable for their negligence, and providing victims of medical malpractice with the restitution and peace of mind they deserve.
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