Bills in Legislature Would Allow Non-Physicians to Perform Surgery

By: Mary Kelly Green, MD
| Published 03/25/2021

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As an eye surgeon and board-certified Ophthalmologist in private practice in rural Burnet County, I am alarmed by the rise in scope of practice expansion bills that have been filed in the Legislature this session. Some bills, including Senate Bill 993, House Bill 2340, and House Bill 4362 aim to give Optometrists — who did not attend medical school nor a surgical residency — the privilege to perform surgery on the human eye. While Optometrists are indispensable members of the health care team, education in one field does not translate to expertise in the other. Proponents of these bills would like to claim that these are simple procedures that can be learned after just one 32-hour course. There is no such thing as a simple surgery. These procedures have post-operative consequences including the potential of blinding the patient. Ophthalmologists attend 4 years of medical school and 3-4 years of residency training that includes close to 18,000 clinical and operating room hours. These bills blur the lines of medicine, lower our state health care standards, and add both confusion and a lack of transparency that affects patients. Scope of practice expansions do not expand access, they put patients at risk.

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