Optical negligence claims – out of sight, out of mind?

04 May 2012

The range of different optical treatment and procedures has dramatically increased over the last decade, from laser surgery including PRK, LASIK and LASEK to lens surgery such as IOL to oculoplastic surgery to vitreo-retinal surgery. In particular the growth in laser eye surgery has become an increasingly common presence on television in the form of adverts for various high street services.

However, as with most emerging treatments, what happens when such treatments go wrong?

Unfortunately, as is the case with other clinical treatment, procedures do not always go to plan and there are an increasing number of optical negligence claims being pursued in respect of such treatment. Claims can relate to late diagnosis, late referral, negligent treatment itself or failure to obtain informed consent.

Examples of negligence can include:

1.  Cataract Surgery. Problems can occur due to a flawed surgical technique during the surgery or insertion of the wrong type of lens.

2.  Retinal Detachment. Early diagnosis is very important where the retina has become detached in order to try and restore or preserve sight and a failure to diagnose, treat, refer or find retinal breaks could lead to an optical negligence claim.

3.  Glaucoma Treatment. Poor clinical supervision by opticians or ophthalmologists can lead to a delay in diagnosis of glaucoma which can have resulted in a deterioration of vision.

4.  Laser Eye Surgery. Vision correction surgery (usually elective) is increasingly being used as a method for correcting long and short sightedness. Unfortunately problems can be experienced including dryness of the eyes, night vision problems, astigmatism and permanent vision damage. Complications can also occur due to inadequate pre-operative checks and screening and incorrect operation of the laser eye surgery equipment

James Braund, Solicitor with Trethowans LLP, says "Optical and ophthalmic negligence claims are making up an increasing proportion of clinical negligence cases. As with all clinical negligence claims a claimant must be able to prove that any treatment complained of is negligent – the test being that no reasonable clinician would have carried out such treatment in such a manner. It is always important for a patient to seek specialist legal advice in order to ascertain whether there may be a valid claim."