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Negligence claims from laser eye surgery patients have more than doubled.

Negligence claims involving laser eye surgery have more than doubled among Medical Defence Union members in the last six years, it was announced today.

The MDU, the largest doctors' insurer in the UK, said while some of the claims were over faulty surgery, many more were on patients' 'unrealistic expectations' about what could be achieved.

In February the Consumers' Association warned that people who undergo laser eye surgery are 'gambling with their sight'.

It warned that clinics made overblown claims and did not highlight possible side effects.

And earlier this month, the medical journal Opthalmology said the failure rate for eye surgery was one in ten, not the one in 1,000 figure widely advertised.

The new figures released by the MDU today show the number of negligence claims involving laser eye surgery have increased by 166 per cent over the last six years.

They now account for a third of all opthalmology claims on the MDU's books.

Dr Matthew Robson, clinical risk manager at the MDU, said: 'Laser eye surgery has massively increased in popularity since its introduction in the early-90s, and it is often thought of as a low risk, straightforward procedure.

'But our experience shows negligence claims in this particular area are increasing rapidly.

'While some of the claims are as a result of faulty surgical technique, an underlying feature in many more cases is patients' unrealistic expectations about what can or cannot be achieved by surgery.'

He said it was important for the doctor performing the surgery to counsel possible patients about the risks of the procedure, the possibility of an imperfect result and other complications.

The MDU has increased its subscription rates for laser eye surgeons and advised them how to minimise the risk of a claim. It said patients must have enough time to ask questions and absorb information before making a decision.

The MDU and General Medical Council also advise laser eye surgeons must not make unjustifiable claims about the quality of the service.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:May 26, 2003
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