Oklahoma optometrists gain right to use scalpel
■ Physicians are fighting the decision to expand the group's scope of practice.
By Myrle Croasdale — Posted Oct. 25, 2004
Organized medicine is seeking to stop a precedent-setting expansion into surgery by nonphysicians in Oklahoma.
The American Medical Association has joined forces with the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the Oklahoma State Medical Assn., the Oklahoma Osteopathic Assn. and the Oklahoma Academy of Ophthalmology to ask Gov. Brad Henry to reject regulations passed by the Oklahoma Board of Examiners in Optometry this October.
"Oklahoma is the only state in the nation that risks its citizens' health and safety by allowing nonphysicians to perform eye surgery," said AMA Trustee William A. Hazel Jr., MD. "This is a terrible precedent that puts the safety of America's patients in jeopardy."
In April, the state Legislature adopted a measure giving optometrists the ability to determine their own scope of practice.
In line with this change, the state optometry board met Oct. 4 and passed regulations giving optometrists the authority to perform surgery with a scalpel. They've had the authority to perform certain laser surgical procedures since the 1980s, according to the optometric board.
David Cockrell, OD, president of the Oklahoma Board of Examiners in Optometry, said the April amendment was needed, after a January 2004 ruling by the state's attorney general determined that the state did not permit optometrists to do nonlaser surgeries.
The ophthalmologists contend that the new regulations could be read in a way that would allow optometrists to perform more than the simple procedures they are doing now.
The governor's 45-day period to accept or reject the regulation ends Nov. 19. Physicians can voice their opinion by calling 405-522-8819.