TN eye surgeons aim to block optometrists’ use of lasers

The Tennessean, October 21, 2011
Eye surgeons in Tennessee have begun a pre-emptive offensive against legislation to allow optometrists the right to do laser surgeries—even though optometrists say they aren't seeking any law change. Lasers are replacing scalpels in eye surgery with procedures that range from saving a patient's sight to freeing them from eyeglasses. Computer programs make some of those procedures seem as easy as pushing a button, but a laser is just as dangerous as a knife, said Rebecca J. Taylor, MD, a Nashville ophthalmologist. "You laser the wrong area and in an instant you render someone blind and it's not retrievable," said Taylor, a medical doctor who completed a surgical residency at Vanderbilt University to become an ophthalmologist. She and other leaders with the Tennessee Academy of Ophthalmology—the organization that represents the surgeons—worry legislators here will follow Kentucky's example. That state passed a law this year allowing optometrists to do surgical procedures, including some using lasers, that were previously limited to ophthalmologists. Optometrists already have an ally in the legislature. Rep. Gary Odom, D-Nashville, is the executive director of their organization.

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