LASIK (acronym for laser-assisted in-situ keratomileusis), commonly referred to as laser eye surgery, has emerged as the premier state-of-the-art ophthalmological laser eye surgery technique for treating the cornea of the eye to alleviate and correct common eye disorders. More specifically, LASIK eye surgery addresses three main types of refractive errors: nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia), and astigmatism. Since its inception as a medical device by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1999, more than 9 million LASIK eye surgeries have been performed in the United States.
When done competently, the hallmark of LASIK corneal eye surgery is that the corrected nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism is permanent, and typically lasting a lifetime. A successful operation can have amazing results for the patient, however, this procedure is not risk-free. Complications have been reported in connection with LASIK surgery: dry eye, corneal abrasion, night glare, halos, corneal flap complications, striae, epithelial ingrowth, corneal ectasia, and infection may occur.
There have also been reports of egregious instances of malpractice by an ophthalmologist in the performance of LASIK eye surgery, causing the following injuries to patients:
- Eye damage
- Vision loss
- Loss of an eye
However, the injures above are not exclusive. In a 2006 case, the defendant-ophthalmologist negligently performed LASIK eye surgery on the plaintiff-patient using a laser that had not been approved by the FDA to treat patients with astigmatism. After the surgery the plaintiff-patient suffered from laser-induced irregular astigmatism, a condition causing blurred and double vision. In another case, the defendant-ophthalmologist negligently performed LASIK eye surgery on the wrong axis of the plaintiff-patient’s eye, doubling her astigmatism instead of correcting it. In yet another case, the defendant-ophthalmologist negligently performed a bilateral LASIK eye surgery on the plaintiff-patient that resulted in the patient’s cornea being melted, and consequently, causing permanent blindness in the affected eye.
Procedure and preparation can impact the success of LASIK eye surgery. These complications can result from a variety of causes, including:
- Faulty medical equipment
- Insufficient follow-up treatment
- Improper surgical technique
- Improper pre-operative screening
In addition, the subject of a malpractice action brought against an ophthalmologists could include failing to render a proper LASIK diagnostic evaluation of the patient, failing to identify an appropriate candidate for LASIK (meaning the particular patient may be contraindicated, or not medically justified because of unrealistic expectations, or coexisting medical conditions), failing to disclose risks and potential complications of LASIK sufficient to obtain an informed consent, and failing to properly and competently perform LASIK in accordance with the applicable standard of ophthalmological care.
With this new and emerging area of medical eye treatment, there may be an increased risk of ophthalmological malpractice claims. At Rosensteel Fleishman, PLLC, we are knowledgeable and experienced in the litigation of LASIK eye surgery malpractice cases.
When a patient suffers injuries of these nature related to LASIK eye surgery, the personal injury claim may be brought as a medical or professional malpractice lawsuit against either the surgeon, ophthalmologist, or other health care providers. In other instances, the claim may be brought under a theory of product liability against the manufacturer of the excimer laser employed in LASIK eye surgery, or the manufacturer of any surgical instrumentation used in such surgery.
When something goes wrong in connection with a LASIK eye surgery, it is not always conclusive of a medical malpractice. If, however, the personal injury claim warrants a medical malpractice suit against the ophthalmologist (party performing the LASIK surgery), then he or she is generally deemed at law to be a medical specialist for which he or she is presumed to have the proper qualifications and credentials. As such, the ophthalmologist is required to adhere to the applicable standard of medical and ophthalmological care in the performance of LASIK eye surgery, as a medical specialist. What this ultimately means is, the ophthalmologist is required to employ the same skill, care and diligence in the performance of LASIK eye surgery that other LASIK ophthalmologists in the same locality, community or jurisdiction would employ in the performance of such surgery. Failure to adhere to the standards of care in the performance of a LASIK eye surgery may constitute a breach of duty to the patient, and if the patient suffers harm proximately caused as a result of that breach, the ophthalmologist may be subject to liability.
An allegation of medical malpractice on the part of the LASIK ophthalmologist may result in damages, including:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment
- Mental distress
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Loss of consortium
- Punitive damages
In other cases, the personal injury claim may warrant a legal theory of product liability against the manufacturer of the LASIK equipment, or other instrument used in treatment. If the product or equipment being used is defective or unreasonably dangerous, and the patient is harmed as a result, the manufacturer may be held liable for the damages suffered.
Whether it is a medical malpractice claim or product liability claim, you will need a team of knowledgeable and experienced attorneys to determine the validity of your case and assist you in these types of complex actions. Rosensteel Fleishman, PLLC has a lot of experience in malpractice cases against health care providers and are well-versed in the legal and complicated medical issues surrounding these claims.
If you or a loved one have been injured in a LASIK eye surgery-related incident, contact us today. The initial consultation is free of charge.