Ophthalmology is the medical specialism which is concerned with eyes and the visual system. Ophthalmologists are doctors who specialise in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of eye conditions.
Stephanie Prior Partner
“The high-powered clinical negligence team at Osbornes handles cases of significant value and complexity, including child and adult brain damage claims, obstetric matters, and ophthalmic injuries.”
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This speciality involves a mix of medical and surgical management, which deals with a diverse range of injuries and disease. As with other doctors in other specialisms, ophthalmologists can opt to train in particular sub-specialties including eye development and disease in children or retinal disease in patients with diabetes and age-related macular degeneration.
However, despite intensive training, doctors still make mistakes. Errors include misdiagnosis or missed diagnosis, slip-ups during surgery and mistakes in prescribing medication.
Negligence claims relating to eye injury include:
Optic neuritis is a condition where the optic nerve becomes inflamed, causing pain, flashing lights and vision loss which can be permanent. Optic neuritis is most commonly linked to Multiple Sclerosis but can occur as a consequence of infection or autoimmune diseases. If diagnosed correctly and treated promptly with steroids, most people enjoy a quick recovery and their vision returns to normal.
However, many patients who are diagnosed with optic neuritis may be misdiagnosed, leading to unnecessary and inappropriate treatment. A recent study that examined the medical records of patients referred to ophthalmology doctors for the treatment of optic neuritis found that of 122 patients, only 49 had the condition while 73 were diagnosed with migraine or other conditions related to the eye, such as ischemia or tumour.1 The primary concern with this data is that patients may have to endure unnecessary treatments and tests that are potentially harmful, until they are correctly diagnosed.
In Montreal2, an ophthalmologist failed to correctly diagnose a man who complained of vision loss. She diagnosed macular degeneration and glaucoma, giving him medication to treat both conditions. However,
another ophthalmologist who saw him a few weeks later diagnosed partial blindness. A brain scan was ordered, which confirmed the presence of a brain tumour, which was causing his symptoms.
In the UK, an Optometrist at Boots Opticians failed to spot abnormalities in the eyes of an 8 year old boy Vinnie Barker who died 5 months after he had a routine eye test at Boots Opticians in Ipswich, Suffolk. The conduct of the optometrist Honey Rose fell so far below the standards expected of an optometrist, she was found guilty of manslaughter and gross negligence.
Glaucoma is an eye condition where the optic nerve is damaged due to the increase in the pressure of the fluid inside the eye. Most types of glaucoma have no symptoms and a regular eye test is the only way to know if you have the condition. Glaucoma can lead to loss of vision if it is not diagnosed and treated correctly. There is no treatment to restore sight once it has been lost due to glaucoma.
There are various types of glaucoma:
- Primary open-angle glaucoma
- A chronic condition, which means that the damage to your optic nerve and changes to your vision
- happen more slowly
- Acute angle glaucoma
- An acute condition when the pressure increase in your eye happens more quickly, it is painful and can
- Cause permanent damage to your eyesight if it is not treated quickly
- Secondary glaucoma
- This occurs as a result of another eye condition such as injury, surgery or medication
This is very rare and affects young babies and is diagnosed in early years and a child with this condition
is carefully managed in a specialist clinic.
At Osbornes Law we have acted for clients who have been misdiagnosed with Primary Open Angle and Acute Angle glaucoma and we have successfully proved that they had received substandard optical care. Damages were awarded.
Surgical errors in ophthalmology can involve the wrong site and incorrect lens implantation or procedure. The majority of these errors are highly preventable, if protocols and guidelines are adhered to.
The most common eye operation is for cataracts with nearly 400,000 surgeries performed by the NHS in 2016-2017.3 During this period it was found that in 21 of these cataract operations, surgeons inserted the incorrect lens. This is an entirely preventable error. A representative of the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (a team of safety investigators funded by the Department of Health) said, ‘having the wrong lens implanted during cataract surgery is something that any one of us or our family members could experience. Data from national reporting shows that despite existing procedures and guidance, the insertion of the wrong lens is still happening’.
In 2018, a story on the BBC website described how the head of the neurosurgery department in NHS Tayside, Sam Eljamel, harmed dozens of patients over many years.4 One of his patients discovered, on asking for her medical records that Eljamel made a serious surgical error when ostensibly treating her eye condition. She had a benign growth behind her eye. Following surgery for its removal, Eljamel told her that the tumour was 99% removed. However, he did not remove the tumour at all, but rather the patient’s tear gland. Since the operation, she continues to suffer pain and dry eye problems. She sued the hospital and received compensation. Unfortunately, many of Eljamel’s patients who were also harmed by his errors, cannot sue because they missed the 3-year limit for making a claim. There is however some hope that Eljamel may yet be criminally prosecuted.
237 million drug errors are made in England each year. Doctors, pharmacists and nurses are responsible, amounting to 1 mistake for every 5 drugs given. It is estimated by one study that drug errors cause 700 deaths a year and could in fact be a causative factor in up to 22,000 deaths.5 One study of prescribing errors within a UK eye hospital showed that 8% of prescription cards had errors, with the majority of mistakes made in the outpatient department.6
In 2018, an unusual report was published by the British Medical Journal’s Case Report. A woman suffered a chemical injury to her eye due to a prescribing error. Instead of being given the prescribed eye lubricant VitA-POS for her condition of dry eyes, she was given Vitaros, which is a cream which can be prescribed for erectile dysfunction. The introduction of the Vitaros caused a chemical injury of her eyes. She presented to her local Accident and Emergency department complaining of eye pain, swollen eye lids and blurred vision and required treatment with antibiotics and steroids. In this case both the pharmacist and GP were at fault.
Our Promise to You
- We will review your potential claim by advising you on the NHS complaints procedure or other alternative procedure if your case does not relate to NHS care and treatment.
- We will not charge a fee for our time in reviewing your case.
- We can assist you with any issues that you may have regarding the complaints procedure or that you encounter in obtaining copies of your medical records.
- We will advise you of the course of action in respect to your case.
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The Medical Negligence Team View the whole team
Rob Aylott Partner
Ben Posford Partner
Stephanie Prior Partner
Elline Demetriou Solicitor
Nicholas Leahy Solicitor
Jodi Newton Associate Solicitor
Medical Negligence Expertise:
- Birth Injury Claims
- Brain Injury Claims
- Cardiac Arrest and Heart Disease Claims
- Care Home Claims & Nursing Home Claims
- Cancer Diagnosis Claims
- Cerebral Palsy Claims
- Fatal Injury Claims
- GP Negligence Claims