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A bill allowing optometrists to perform a broader range of eye surgeries passed 70-19 Wednesday in the House.

House Bill 1251, sponsored by Rep. Jon Eubanks, R-Paris, would allow optometrists to administer injections around people's eyes, remove bumps and lesions from eyelids, and perform certain types of laser surgery. HB1251 next goes to the Senate.

Supporters say the measure would allow optometrists to use more of their training and provide easier access to eye care for patients in rural areas.

[RELATED: Complete Democrat-Gazette coverage of the Arkansas Legislature]

Opponents, including Democratic Rep. Stephen Magie, an ophthalmologist from Conway, say that allowing optometrists to perform procedures now performed by ophthalmologists, who have medical degrees and more training, would put patients at risk.

An October 2018 report by the National Conference of State Legislatures listed Alaska, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Kentucky as allowing optometrists to perform some laser surgeries and remove lumps and bumps. Five other states allowed optometrists to remove lumps and bumps but not perform laser surgeries.

--Andy Davis


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Archived Comments

  • Knuckleball1
    March 7, 2019 at 8:48 a.m.

    Because other States are stupid and let unqualified people do surgeries, now Arkansas has to be as stupid....this will cause lawsuits and guess what the Tort Law will be again brought up because the Crooks and Thieves had a hand in the process.

  • hogfan2012
    March 7, 2019 at 9:26 a.m.

    I let McFarland Eye Center (who is supposedly trained and qualified) do LASIK on me and they botched it up! I wish I had never had it done. Your eyes can't be replaced - don't let less than qualified people do surgery on peoples eyes.

  • RBBrittain
    March 8, 2019 at 6:47 p.m.

    What do you define as "qualified"? This bill would let optometrists (OD), whose degrees are specifically in eye care (in fact they're called "optometric physicians" on their Arkansas licenses), perform laser surgeries as well as ophthalmologists (MDs who specialize in eye care). The opposition to this bill comes from ophthalmologists (like the surgeons of McFarland Eye Center) who want to protect their monopoly on laser eye surgeries; they love to cite claims of botched surgeries by ODs, but as HogFan2012 says even MDs can mess up. Doctors in general are trying to block numerous "scope of practice" bills that would allow non-MDs to practice in more fields where they're desperately needed, such as nurse practitioners. The opposition to these bills is more about protecting MDs' big bucks and long waiting lists than patient safety.