Jim Martin: “If these bills pass, it could risk the safety and eyesight of Texas seniors, their children, and their grandchildren.”
ALEXANDRIA, VA – The 60 Plus Association, the nation’s leading conservative senior advocacy organization with over 7.2 million senior supporters nationwide, including more than 500,000 in Texas, is warning Texans about dangerous legislation in the Texas Legislature which places seniors and their eyesight at risk. House Bill 1413, and House Bill 1420/Senate Bill 577 would collectively remove the requirement of a medical degree to perform eye surgery, independently practice glaucoma, and prescribe potent medications.
The proposed bills, supported by the optometry profession, would allow optometrists – who are not medical doctors, do not graduate from medical school, and do not go through surgical residency training– to perform scalpel and laser surgery on the eye and surrounding tissues, as well as prescribe powerful drugs such as steroids and highly addictive narcotics. Furthermore, the legislation would authorize optometrists to diagnose and treat glaucoma without physician oversight. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world.
60 Plus cautions that these bills will dilute the quality of patient care in Texas. Typically, patients requiring surgery or prescription medication are treated by an ophthalmologist—a medical doctor and surgeon trained in comprehensive eye care. While optometrists may currently treat glaucoma patients in Texas, they may only do so under the supervision of a practicing physician, such as an ophthalmologist. Ophthalmologists are medical school graduates who complete a one year hospital internship followed by a three year residency program where they train to become eye surgeons. Optometrists are eye care professionals who go through optometry school to train in basic eye care services such as vision exams and prescribing lenses, but they do not attend medical school or surgical residency. Under the provisions of the three bills, optometrists would not be held to the same education and clinical training standards as ophthalmologists, even though they would be attempting to treat the same sight-threatening conditions.
Representatives of 60 Plus say that passage of this legislation should trigger enormous concerns for patient safety. In a recent statement, 60 Plus founder and Chairman Jim Martin said that seniors in Texas are hoping the legislature rejects these bills that remove safety measures in eye care. Martin cited a devastating case in California where an internal investigation found that military veterans at a Veterans Administration (VA) healthcare facility suffered blindness after being treated for glaucoma by optometrists who managed the disease on their own, without following VA policy requiring them to consult with medical doctors on glaucoma cases. “It’s disappointing that some Texas legislators want to allow non-medical eye care professionals to practice beyond their level of education and training. Texas has no business imposing that level of substandard care onto its citizens. If these bills pass, it could potentially risk the safety and eyesight of Texas seniors, their children, and their grandchildren, and Texans deserve better,” said Martin.
For more information, Texans can visit www.texansforsafesurgery.org.