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Florida Doctors Speak Out Against Dangerous Legislation


March 8, 2021


Kat Canfield


Florida Doctors Speak Out Against Dangerous Legislation

Senate Bill 876 would allow non-medical doctors to perform surgery and prescribe opioids placing Floridians at serious risk.

Tallahassee, FL – Florida’s statewide medical community is speaking out this week against SB 876, dangerous legislation that seeks to expand the scope of practice for optometrists which would allow them to perform eye surgery and grant them broader prescribing authority, including narcotics. Optometrists are neither medical doctors nor trained surgeons.

“This legislation is rooted in misinformation and will set a dangerous precedent that will put patients directly at risk. Every citizen in Florida should be concerned,” said Darby D. Miller, MD, MPH, immediate past-president and legislative co-chair of the Florida Society of Ophthalmology. “At the last Senate Healthcare Committee, Ken Lawson, O.D. testified to the committee that physician assistants and nurse practitioners were performing many ocular surgery procedures ‘unsupervised.’ This statement is not only false but also would be a violation of law, if in fact this is occurring, and those health care practitioners would be practicing beyond their lawful scope. I implore members of the Florida Senate to stand with patients and protect their safety by voting against this bill.”

Ophthalmologists are medical eye doctors and trained surgeons with a post-graduate 4 years of medical school, a 1-year hospital internship, 3 years of hands-on surgical residency in a hospital, and typically 1-2 years of subspecialty fellowship training.  All in all, ophthalmologists go through eight-to ten post-graduate years of medical education and clinical training in surgery. On the other hand, optometrists are only required to complete a 4-year optometry school program with no surgical residency.

“This legislation is not only reckless and dangerous, but places patients directly in harm’s way by putting their surgical needs in the hands of those who do not have a medical degree,” said Dr. Sarah Wellik, President of the Florida Society of Ophthalmology. “Optometrists have said that they will only be able to perform ‘a few minor procedures’ on the eye. But the truth is, the bill would allow them to perform over 235 types of dangerous surgery on and around the eye with scalpels and lasers. There is no such thing as ‘minor surgery.’ We cannot let the legislature set a precedent of granting medical degrees through legislation and bypassing medical school and residency training. Ophthalmologists are medical and osteopathic doctors, who have spent well over a decade receiving extensive clinical education and surgical training.”

“This bill poses a great surgical safety and health risk to the general public,” said Dr. Charles Chase, President of the Physicians Society of Central Florida. “Medical school, internship, and residency instills in surgeons not only the technical skill on how to perform a procedure, but also the medical judgement to determine when to operate or whether surgery is even the appropriate treatment at that time. Optometrists do not have the medical school education on the intricacies of the different organ systems and disease processes. In no objective measurement is optometry school an acceptable substitute to become a surgeon. Those who are accepted into ophthalmology residency programs are the best and brightest of medical school graduates. The committee would be very misguided to pass this bill.”

The bill is opposed by leading state and national medical associations, including:

American Medical Association

American College of Surgeons

American Osteopathic Association

American Academy of Ophthalmology

American Osteopathic College of Ophthalmology

American Academy of Dermatology

American Society for Dermatologic Surgery Association

American Society of Plastic Surgeons

Florida Medical Association

Broward County Medical Association

Florida Academy of Family Physicians

Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Inc.

Florida Chapter of the American College of Physicians

Florida Chapter, American College of Surgeons

Florida Orthopaedic Society

Florida Osteopathic Medical Association

Florida Society of Clinical Oncology

Florida Society of Dermatologic Surgeons

Florida Society of Dermatology & Dermatologic Surgery

Florida Society of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

Florida Society of Ophthalmology

Florida Society of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery

Florida Society of Pathologists

Florida Society of Plastic Surgeons

Florida Society of the American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians

Florida Vascular Society

SB 876 will be heard again on Wednesday, March 10 in Senate Health Policy. Visit to fight for patient safety and view testimonies from patients on the dangers of non-medical professionals performing eye surgeries.


About the Florida Society of Ophthalmology

The Florida Society of Ophthalmology (FSO) has a rich history of serving patients since its founding in 1939 as the Florida Society of Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology. Today, the organization represents more than 500 physician members throughout the state and is focused on advancing patient care and protecting the medical specialty of ophthalmology. For more information, please visit the FSO website at






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