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April 1, 2005

Oklahoma’s Optometrists Encroach on Surgical Rights of Ophthalmologists; Place Politics Above Patient Safety

William A. Hazel Jr, MD; American Medical Association Board of Trustees
Arch Ophthalmol. 2005;123(4):559-560. doi:10.1001/archopht.123.4.559

Surgeons must be very careful When they take the knife! Underneath their fine incisions Stirs the culprit— life! Emily Dickinson, poem No. 108, c. 1859

When the poet Emily Dickinson wrote these lines, it likely never occurred to her that in the future, nonphysicians would be performing medical surgery. Yet that is exactly what is happening right now in Oklahoma.

This past October, Governor Brad Henry approved regulations allowing optometrists to perform surgery with a scalpel in Oklahoma. Governor Henry’s decision essentially gave the green light to regulations developed and approved by the state’s optometry oversight board. In essence, nonphysicians wrote laws giving themselves the same rights to perform surgery as physicians. By placing politics above patient safety, Oklahoma became the only state in the nation to allow optometrists to perform eye surgery.

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