Urgent Message from FSO Legislative Chair, Jaime Membreno, MD on Dangerous Legislation
Dear Ophthalmology Colleagues,
Last week, dangerous legislation was filed in the Florida House (HB 1037) and the Senate (SB 1168) which would allow optometrists (ODs) to perform a broad variety of ocular surgeries, prescribe virtually all oral medications (including a myriad of habit forming narcotics), and begin to treat systemic diseases, all while operating outside the purview of any medical regulatory oversight.
For all intents and purposes, the legislation would erase any distinctions between ODs and ophthalmologists, and allow ODs to perform virtually all of the functions of an ophthalmologist without going to medical school. We have long suspected that this was the ultimate goal of organized optometry, and now that suspicion has come to fruition.
This is not “fake news.” To give you a sense of how grave the situation is, take a moment to read the following excerpt from the proposed legislation:
"A certified optometrist in ophthalmic surgery may perform laser and non-laser ophthalmic surgery. To perform laser and non-laser ophthalmic surgery, the certified optometrist in ophthalmic surgery must provide to the department proof of the successful completion of a course and subsequent examination, approved by the board, on laser and non-laser ophthalmic surgery...“Ophthalmic surgery” means a procedure performed on the human eye and its adnexa and visual system in which human tissue is injected, cut, burned, frozen, sutured, vaporized, coagulated, or photodisrupted by the use of surgical instrumentation such as, but not limited to, a scalpel, a cryoprobe, a laser, an electric cautery, or ionizing radiation."
Once again, this is not some April Fools’ hoax; and it’s not about shared care or any other model of collaboration among our professions. Plain and simple, this legislation is about ODs becoming surgeons without the proper educational foundation and resident training that is absolutely needed in order to competently and safely perform surgery and protect our patients. We owe it to our patients and our profession to stop this dangerous legislation now.
Colleagues, the stakes could not be higher. You cannot afford to “sit this one out” and hope the Legislature sees through this deception. Since the early 1980s, the push to expand the scope of optometry through legislative fiat has been relentless. Organized optometry is well funded, makes huge political contributions, and plays the proverbial “money” game in Tallahassee very well. Their motivation is obvious: why should an OD try to apply to medical school and spend over $300,000 to become an ophthalmologist when they can each simply contribute $1,000 to their political action committee and have their “friends” in the Legislature designate them medical doctors and surgeons without spending one day in medical school or residency. A sham? You bet it is.
So, what can you do to prevent it? It’s really quite simple:
- First, you need to call, email or better yet, meet with your local Senator and Representative and explain the dangers/problems of this ill-conceived legislation. Click here to view a summary of those dangers and problems. If you don’t know your legislator, visit the FSO resource page mdeye.org/eyesurgery to look up your Senator and Representative.
- Second, you should have your patients contact their legislators and convey their concern. Click here to give this handout on eye surgery to your patients.
- Third, share the online version of this infographic on eye surgery on your practice website as well as social media pages.
- Fourth, you can contribute to FOCUS, FSO’s political committee, via the enclosed form or online at mdeye.org/support/contribute.
Together we can stop this dangerous legislation and protect the safety of our patients and the integrity of our profession. But we need to start now. Get involved, as much as you can, as loud as you can, as long as you can!
Jaime H. Membreno, MD
Florida Society of Ophthalmology