Ophthalmology and Optometry Malpractice In Utah: Most Common Errors Seen by Lawyers

02/11/2019 Posted by Jared Faerber

     What are some common errors made by optometrists and ophthalmologists in the Salt Lake City, Utah, area, and are these errors medical malpractice?

Ophthalmologists vs. Optometrist

     Before we get into specific mistakes, what is the difference between these disciplines? Ophthalmologists are medical doctors (usually M.D.s) specializing in eye and vision care. They have gone to medical school and are licensed to practice medicine and surgery. They are able to diagnose and treat eye diseases, fit and prescribe glasses and contacts, and perform various eye surgeries.

     Optometrists are healthcare professionals who provide primary vision care ranging from testing and correction of vision to the diagnoses and treatment of vision changes and diseases. Optometrists received doctor of optometry degrees (OD) after completing four years of optometry school.

     In Utah, both ophthalmologists and optometrists must adhere to the standards of care in their respective disciplines. This means they must exercise the degree of skill, care and competence shown by a reasonable practitioner in their respective fields. The failure to do so is a breach and may lead to liability for the resulting injuries.

Types of Medical Malpractice Associated with Ophthalmologists and Optometrists

     While malpractice must generally be established through expert testimony after reviewing the specific facts of each case, there are types of errors and claims that can be identified and categorized.

     Delayed Diagnoses or Failure to Diagnose and Treat

     Failure to diagnose conditions or diseases can sometimes lead to irreversible damage resulting in blindness or serious loss of vision. Such a delay may also lead to the need for additional surgeries, medication, and other care that could have been avoided if the condition had been diagnosed and treated in a timely fashion.

     Glaucoma is a classic example. I handled a case for an individual who developed severe glaucoma resulting in near total loss of vision in one eye. This condition could have been diagnosed and treated if the optometrist had performed complete eye exams, including a test of intraocular pressure (IOP). This delay in diagnoses and treatment allowed the disease to progress for years to the point where the patient's vision was almost entirely destroyed.

     Other conditions which may be missed include retinoblastoma (intraocular cancer), cataracts, retinal detachment, and other cancers. Time is of the essence with many of these problems and rapid diagnoses and treatment is vital.

     Failure to Refer or Consult an Expert

     Sometimes a patient has a condition that the doctor does not have the training or experience to handle alone. In such circumstances, the doctor may have an obligation to refer the patient to a specialist or consult with a specialist. Failure to do so may constitute malpractice.

     Surgical Errors

     This is a common type of ophthalmology malpractice claim in Utah. Many of these involve LASIK surgery or cataract surgery. Errors can result in severe visual disturbances or even blindness.

A Utah Medical Malpractice Lawyer with Ophthalmology and Optometry Malpractice Experience

     The Faerber Law Firm, PC has successfully handled these types of claims in Utah for nearly 20 years. This is a unique field and requires specialized knowledge and experience. If you suspect you or a loved one have experienced an injury due to malpractice, we would be happy to talk to you for free. (801) 438-1099.