Farsightedness, astigmatism, nearsightedness, vision loss, cataract, glaucoma, retina are some of the problems that ophthalmologists treat and diagnose. Before understanding the role of an eye surgery expert witness, it’s important to know who these witnesses are and why they are retained by the attorneys.
Ophthalmologists are eye doctors that treat and diagnose various problems related to eye injuries or diseases. They are licensed to perform surgery as well. They perform several functions- prescribing glasses, performing eye tests, conducting surgical procedures, and in some cases, they might also be called upon by an attorney to offer testimony services. You can expect the following services from an eye doctor:
- Eye exams
- Treating glaucoma
- Treat Iritis
- Perform surgery for cataracts, glaucoma, and retina
- Treat eye damages like burns or cuts
- Laser eye surgery
- Perform plastic surgery
- Treating cross-eyed patients
- Eye problems related to diabetes and other diseases
- Plastic surgery
Some of the mistakes performed by ophthalmologists include:
- Delayed diagnosis
- Failure to administer eye tests to determine medical conditions
- Failure to obtain a complete medical history of the patient
- Surgical errors while performing the surgery
- Failure to use disinfected tools and equipment
- Failure to provide adequate post-surgical care
- Failure to receive informed consent from the patient
- Prescribing wrong medications
- Prescribing the wrong dosage of medications
- Cutting the wrong eye
- Perforating the eyes while surgery
These are some of the causes where the surgeons can make mistakes. Someone who is a victim of this negligence has the right to sue the surgeon and claim compensation. This is where an eye expert witness plays a crucial role. In this article, you’ll learn about retinal detachment, its causes, risks, and malpractices.
Retinal detachment- symptoms, cause, and risks:
Retinal detachment is one of the serious eye problems in which the tissues at the back of the eye pulls away from the tissue around it, and hence the name retinal detachment. One of the major and serious consequences of an untreated retinal detachment is permanent vision loss. Therefore, this serious eye condition should be immediately treated.
Usually, there are no visible signs of retinal detachment but you might notice one of the following signs:
- Flashes of light
- Shade of curtains
- Blurred vision (also a symptom of glaucoma or cataract problems)
- Sudden appearance of floaters, curtain-like shadow
- Reduced peripheral vision
- Photopsia (flashes of light in one or both the eyes)
If you face any of these visual disturbances, get in touch with an eye doctor immediately. Your retina might tear off even before it gets detached.
Types of retinal detachment:
Retinal detachment is of three types-
- Rhegmatogenous– One of the most common types of retinal detachment is Rhegmatogenous and it is caused by a hole in the retina that allows the fluid to pass and accumulate under the retina. This causes the retina to detach from the underlying tissues and the detached part stops functioning due to loss of blood supply. This kind of detachment is most common in old people. The consistency of the vitreous gel keeps changing and it tends to become more fluid as you age. If left untreated, this fluid can pass through the hole or the tear, leading to the accumulation of fluids underneath the eyes, giving way to permanent vision loss.
- Tractional– When the scar tissue grows on the surface of the retina, it causes the retina to pull away from the back of the eye. This type of detachment is mainly visible among the population having poorly controlled diabetes or other medical conditions.
- Exudative– In this, there is no tear or hole in the retina but fluid accumulation takes place underneath the retina. This eye condition is mainly due to eye injury, macular degeneration, tumors, or other inflammatory diseases.
Getting in touch with a medical professional is important or you may face vision loss. The most accurate treatment in this regard would be retinal surgery.
Who are at risk?
Retinal detachment is more common in old adults. However, the below-mentioned factors can increase the risk of this problem.
- People who are above the age of 50 years
- Previous retinal detachment in one eye
- Family history of retinal detachment
- Previous eye surgery like cataract removal
- Previous eye disorder or eye disease.
Be cautious if you’ve been through any of these. Seek medical attention as soon as possible to worsen your eye condition.
Ophthalmology malpractices with regard to retinal detachment:
Medical malpractices take place when errors take place before, during, and after surgery.
Malpractices before surgery:
Most of the surgical malpractices take place because of the doctor failing to consider the previous medical history of the patients. Before performing surgery, the surgeon should exchange dialogue with the patient. This dialogue should include effective communication where the surgeon should discuss the pros, cons, and risks associated with the surgery. In this regard, the patient should also give verbal and written consent to the surgeon giving a nod to the medical professional. The course of action should be decided in accordance with the present medical condition. The surgeon should also discuss the procedure as well as the other alternatives or remedies available for the patient. All the risks and benefits should be discussed prior to surgery. There needs to be informed consent from the patient both in verbal and written forms. This is done to ensure that the patient is ready for the surgery despite knowing the risks and benefits.
Malpractices during surgery:
Malpractices can also happen during surgery. Therefore the doctors have to be very careful while performing the surgery to reduce the risks of errors. Instances of malpractice during surgery include-
- Cutting the wrong eye
- Failure to establish clear communication between the doctor and the other medical staff.
- The inexperienced surgeon not having sufficient knowledge to complete a procedure.
- Not using sterilized equipment for surgery
- Perforation of a body part causing injury to the patient.
After retina surgery, the doctor will keep you under observation. This is known as the observation phase in which the surgeon tries to keep a check on the patient to determine if they need to be kept back for a few more hours. If the surgeon feels that the patient is perfectly fine, he/she will advise you on the future course of action. The surgeon also needs to discuss the medications that they need to take. This stage is known as the post-operative stage in which the doctor needs to keep the patient under observation for a few hours. There can be malpractice if the patient is released before examining the patient’s condition after surgery.
The patient has the right to consult an expert ophthalmologist witness in case of surgical malpractices. The role of these experts shall be discussed below.
Report by the American Academy of Ophthalmology:
According to the reports of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, several instances of the wrong diagnosis were found along with the fault of the surgeon. It was found that 14% of the negligence cases were due to misdiagnosis. In 38% of the cases, there were diagnostic errors of the retina, and 29% were due to the wrong diagnosis in retinal detachment.
Role of expert eyewitnesses in ophthalmology malpractices:
The role of eye expert witnesses in malpractice claims is many. As soon as you find that there has been medical negligence, the first thing to do is get a second opinion. You have the right to seek compensation for the damages caused to you. For this, you’ll need a malpractice attorney who is experienced in retinal surgical errors. Remember that medical malpractice cases are highly complex because the errors are mainly technical in nature. To understand these complex elements, the attorney retains a retina surgery expert witness. These expert witnesses are eye surgeons having board certification to testify on malpractice cases.
To prove medical negligence, the attorney as well as the expert witness needs to prove certain essential grounds. But before that, one should know why it is important to seek legal help without delays. In the USA, all the states have a statute of limitation. This limitation may be different for different states. Now you might be wondering what the statute of limitation is. This is exactly the reason why you need legal help in the first place. There are a lot of legalities and formalities that one has to go through for seeking compensation. One such legal consideration is the statute of limitation. Attorneys have full knowledge about the step-by-step legal processes that need to be followed. The statute of limitation is the time limit within which the plaintiff needs to bring the claim. If this deadline is crossed, you’ll lose the legal right to claim. The statute of limitation for an alleged act of medical negligence is two years. Similarly, there are several legal procedures that need to be followed.
4 essential things to prove in medical negligence cases:
To prove medical negligence, the plaintiff has to prove four essential things which have been stated as follows:
Duty of care–
The doctor-patient relationship gets established through the duty of care. When a patient is admitted under the care of a doctor, the doctor owes a certain duty of care towards the patient. There are certain established standards that the doctor has to follow while treating the patient. If the doctor fails to maintain these standards, and the patient gets injured because of the same, then the patient has the right to sue the doctor.
Breach of duty of care–
As mentioned above, there can be a case of malpractice if the surgeon has breached the duty of care towards the patient. This is where an expert witness plays an integral role. These expert witnesses are called upon to determine how the surgeon has violated the duty of care towards the patient. The procedure relies on establishing the fault of the doctor, surgeon, or the other medical staff whoever is responsible for the injury. The plaintiff can take the surgeon the court for causing such negligence. Both economic and non-economic compensation can be claimed from these medical professionals for breaching the established standards of care.
In this, the attorneys have to prove that the patient has sustained injuries because of the negligence of the doctor. The direct result between the negligence and the injuries has to be established in this.
The fourth and final point that needs to be proved is the harm or injury caused to the patient is directly a result of the surgeon’s negligence. Frankly speaking, one of the toughest jobs in malpractice cases is to prove causation and harm. When you have an experienced expert witness by your side, it becomes easier to prove this. This is why an experienced witness is required.
Though an expert witness may be called in the middle of an investigation, the best practice is to retain them from the beginning of the investigation. Note that experts will also need some time to go through the case and the facts. It’s not like you appoint them today and they’ll start advising you from the next day! It’s important to give them sufficient time so that they can go deeper into the case and find out if there has been malpractice. So if you believe that you or your family members have been victimized, get in touch with an attorney as soon as you can! The Sooner you get legal help; the better will be the chances of getting your compensation!