Monday, August 01, 2005

Former Banker Is Awarded $7 Million In Damages From LASIK Eye Surgery

I can't see very well, and even then among the four oldest members of my household I might see best. (The very little ones, well, so far so good.) We're a bunch of four-eyes.

But laser surgery scares us. It seems that it's well-established to be very safe; a jillion people have had it; you have eyesight like Ted Williams (well, Ted Williams when his head was still attached) when you're finished, which is like ten minutes after they start. And yet, what if?

Here's an exceprt from a rare 'what if' story. You need a subscription to the online National Law Journal to read it, so if you're a normal person chances are this will have to suffice:

A Manhattan jury has awarded a former investment banker $7.25 million in damages for vision impairment he claimed resulted from LASIK eye surgery.

The award — $4.5 million in lost income and $2.75 million in pain and suffering — is the largest to date in a suit over the popular vision correction surgery. It is against one of New York's leading LASIK practitioners as well as the corporation that has become the nation's largest provider of LASIK surgery.

Mark Schiffer had LASIK surgery on Oct. 6, 2000, a week after he first visited an optometrist affiliated with the TLC Laser Eye Center, which operates LASIK surgery centers with affiliated doctors nationwide.

The surgery was performed by Dr. Mark Speaker, then-medical director of TLC, who also has his own practice. One of the most well-known LASIK surgeons in New York, Dr. Speaker has performed thousands of procedures and has been a frequent media commentator on the practice.

In his suit, Mr. Schiffer, 32, claimed he suffered distorted and blurred vision, particularly in his left eye, because the TLC-affiliated doctors failed to determine that he had keratoconus, a degenerative corneal condition that made the laser surgery unsafe.

[The highly-credentialed] Mr. Schiffer claimed his vision impairment forced him to leave his highly paid Wall Street career and take a job with his father's Long Island banking security company. [At trial,] his lawyer argued that the failure to diagnose keratoconus was a result of TLC's high-volume practice, which he called the 'McDonalds of LASIK surgery.' He said TLC had placed Mr. Schiffer on a 'conveyor belt' of LASIK patients, noting that Dr. Speaker performed procedures on 10 other patients the same day he operated on Mr. Schiffer. In the rush, Mr. Krouner argued, the TLC doctors ignored signs that Mr. Schiffer was not a proper candidate for LASIK.

. . .

Lawyers for TLC and Dr. Speaker took issue with Mr. Schiffer's claim of keratoconus and argued that all tests and medical records at the time showed Mr. Schiffer had a healthy cornea. They also took issue with the severity of his impairment, noting that he drove himself to the trial.
Yeah, there's more going on here than meets the, er... than it seems. But I don't need to many of these stories to stick with my Clark Kent look. So what if I have to keep the specs on even after I do the phone-booth thing? Besides, in my line of work, four is the number of eyes most Supermen have anyway.

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