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American Osteopathic Association Shocked by Oklahoma Governor's Approval of Optometrists Performing Surgery.

CHICAGO -- The American Osteopathic Association (AOA), representing more than 54,000 osteopathic physicians (D.O.s) across the United States including thousands of ophthalmologists, was shocked to learn of Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry's decision to allow optometrists to perform surgery.

"The AOA wholeheartedly disagrees with Governor Henry's approval, allowing optometrists to perform surgery," says AOA President-Elect Philip L. Shettle, D.O., a board certified ophthalmologist who has three sons - one an ophthalmologist and two optometrists. "His decision shows blatant disregard for the safety of Oklahoma residents and potentially thousands of other Americans."

In 1998, Oklahoma optometrists were granted rights to perform laser surgery which represented an increase in their scope of practice. Since 1998, Oklahoma optometrists have been taking the laser surgery one-step further and performing other surgeries including removing foreign objects from the eye without the education and training to do so.

Saturday, Governor Henry declared that he approves of optometrists performing surgery, not just laser surgery, and that it doesn't expand the scope of practice of optometrists. His decision came almost three weeks before the deadline for ruling.

"The fact that he was able to make this decision so quickly without giving it the full 45 days tells me that he didn't have time to contemplate the potential impact that his decision could have on patient safety for not only Oklahoma residents, but all Americans and U.S. veterans," adds Dr. Shettle.

According to Dr. Shettle, if one state allows this increase in the scope of practice, it has the potential to create a domino effect where other states begin to follow. In addition, this rule has implications for providing quality eye care for U.S. veterans.

"Optometrists are not licensed physicians," emphasizes Dr. Shettle. "And, surgery is a serious matter. It's more than just cutting the eye. It involves pre-operative care, anesthesiology and post-operative care. It's total quality care. Optometrists aren't trained to perform surgery or oversee these other areas of care. If something does go wrong, they aren't trained to deal with it."

Ophthalmologists complete four years of medical school, a residency and three years of surgical training. Whereas, optometrists attend four years of optometric school, but are not required to complete a surgical residency.

The AOA plans to continue to fight this scope of practice expansion to preserve patient quality care, and will work to educate patients to choose only licensed physicians when undergoing surgery.

The AOA represents the nation's more than 54,000 D.O.s, promotes public health, encourages scientific research, serves as the primary certifying body for D.O.s and is the accrediting body for all osteopathic medical schools and health care facilities.
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Publication:Business Wire
Date:Nov 2, 2004
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