Sarah Wellik: Patient safety remains top of mind after legislative battles

eye care 02.19
Florida lawmakers chose to protect patients and put their safety first.

This year’s Legislative Session was full of wins and losses for many, but one important group remained at the forefront for Florida’s leaders: patients.

Against the backdrop of a historical economic recovery from a once-in-a-lifetime health crisis that closed our nation, Florida lawmakers chose to protect patients and put their safety first by ensuring that dangerous optometric surgery legislation did not pass.

House Bill 631 and its companion, Senate Bill 876, would have allowed optometrists — who are neither medical doctors nor trained surgeons — to perform dangerous and invasive surgeries without ever going to medical school or surgical residency. Furthermore, it would have provided the Florida Board of Optometry — a regulatory board lacking any medical doctors or surgeons — complete autonomous authority to determine any and all surgeries optometrists could perform with negligible training consisting of as little as a 32-hour weekend course.

On behalf of the Florida Society of Ophthalmology (FSO), I would like to thank members of the Florida House and Senate who worked hard to ensure patients will remain protected, as well as the many physicians and organizations throughout Florida’s medical and osteopathic community who stood firmly with us and with our patients this legislative session.

As we look forward to fall committee weeks and an early Legislative session in 2022, FSO will remain committed to patients and will continue to stand firm that surgery and injections in, on and around the eye should only be performed by an ophthalmologist, a medical doctor and eye surgeon, who has the extensive education, training, and clinical experience.

As we plan for the future, be sure to visit our education site SafeSurgeryFL.com for more information on the dangers of non-physicians performing eye surgery and for how you can get involved in our future efforts.

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Dr. Sarah Wellik, M.D. is the president of the Florida Society of Ophthalmology and a professor of Clinical Ophthalmology and Director of Glaucoma Service at UHealth Plantation, Bascom Palmer Eye Institute and University of Miami School of Medicine.

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