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Can Ophthalmologists Be Held Liable for Medical Malpractice?

January 22, 2024

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Yes, ophthalmologists can be held liable if they cause harm to patients through negligence.

Ophthalmologists are eye doctors who play a crucial role in safeguarding our vision and eye health. Because they deal only with the eyes, some people assume their negligence can’t cause as much harm as medical doctors—or that they can even be held liable for it if it does.

Yet, like any licensed medical professional, ophthalmologists can be subject to allegations of medical malpractice, especially when their actions or inactions harm patients. If you or someone you love was harmed by an ophthalmologist, here’s what you need to know about seeking compensation through a medical malpractice claim.

How Can Ophthalmologists Commit Medical Malpractice?

Medical malpractice refers to a situation where a healthcare professional deviates from the accepted standard of care, resulting in harm to the patient. In the case of ophthalmologists, this could involve misdiagnosis, surgical errors, improper treatment, or failure to warn about potential risks associated with a procedure.

Key Factors in Ophthalmologist Malpractice Cases

Establishing medical malpractice in the field of ophthalmology involves several key elements:

  • Breach of Standard Care: Ophthalmologists are held to the standard of care expected from a reasonably competent practitioner in their field. If an ophthalmologist fails to provide this level of care and it leads to injury or harm, it may constitute malpractice.
  • Causation: Proving that the ophthalmologist's actions directly caused the injury is crucial. This involves demonstrating that the harm resulted from the ophthalmologist's deviation from the standard of care, rather than from an underlying condition or other factors.
  • Damages: To pursue a medical malpractice claim, it's essential to show that the patient suffered damages as a result of the ophthalmologist's actions or negligence. These damages can include physical harm, additional medical expenses, lost wages, or pain and suffering.

Examples of Ophthalmologist Malpractice

Cases of ophthalmologist malpractice can vary widely, but some common scenarios include:

  • Surgical Errors: Ophthalmologists perform intricate surgeries like LASIK eye surgery, cataract removal, or retinal procedures. Errors during these surgeries, such as incorrect incisions, using incorrect tools, or improper technique, can lead to vision impairment, corneal damage, or even permanent blindness.
  • Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis: Failing to diagnose eye conditions accurately or in a timely manner can have severe consequences. Missing signs of diseases like glaucoma, macular degeneration, or retinal detachment can result in delayed treatment, allowing these conditions to progress and cause irreversible damage to vision.
  • Improper Treatment: Ophthalmologists prescribe medications, eye drops, or perform treatments to manage various eye conditions. Administering incorrect medication, prescribing the wrong eyeglass prescription, or providing inadequate post-operative care can lead to complications, worsening of conditions, or vision loss.
  • Failure to Warn About Risks: Before performing a procedure or prescribing a treatment, ophthalmologists are responsible for informing patients about potential risks and complications. Failure to do so, or providing inadequate information about the risks involved, can result in a lack of informed consent, leading to legal repercussions if complications arise.
  • Negligence in Follow-up Care: After a procedure or treatment, ophthalmologists are often responsible for follow-up care to monitor the patient's progress and address any complications. Neglecting proper follow-up care or failing to respond promptly to post-operative complications can worsen problems and lead to further harm.
  • Use of Contaminated or Defective Equipment: Ophthalmologists rely on specialized equipment for diagnoses and treatments. Using defective or outdated equipment that hasn’t been properly maintained or sterilized can lead to inaccurate diagnoses or complications during procedures.

What Compensation is Available for People Harmed by Ophthalmologists?

Human eyes are extremely important—and extremely delicate and vulnerable—organs. When they’re damaged to the point of visual impairment, chronic pain, or even total loss of vision, the consequences can be severe for victims, both in their daily lives and in their ability to work. In addition, negligent treatment of the eyes can sometimes result in health problems that affect the rest of the body and even the brain.

People whose eyes or overall health are harmed by ophthalmologists can seek compensation for many different damages, including:

  • Medical Expenses: This includes reimbursement for past and future medical bills resulting from the malpractice. It covers costs associated with corrective surgeries, treatments, medications, therapy, and any other necessary medical care directly related to the harm caused.
  • Lost Income: If the injury caused by the ophthalmologist’s negligence results in the inability to work or loss of earning capacity, compensation for lost wages or future income may be sought.
  • Pain and Suffering: Compensation for physical pain, emotional distress, mental anguish, and loss of enjoyment of life caused by the malpractice can be pursued. This type of compensation aims to address the intangible impact the injury has had on the victim’s life.
  • Rehabilitation and Therapy: In cases where ongoing rehabilitation or therapy is necessary for recovery, compensation can cover these expenses.
  • Disability or Disfigurement: If the malpractice results in a permanent disability or disfigurement, compensation may be sought to account for the long-term impact on the individual’s life.
  • Punitive Damages: In certain cases of extreme negligence or intentional misconduct, punitive damages might be awarded. These are meant to punish the defendant and deter similar behavior in the future.

Hurt by an Eye Doctor? Contact Our Ohio Medical Malpractice Lawyers.

Being injured at the eye doctor, or by an eye doctor’s negligence when treating an eye-related problem, isn’t something many people worry about. Unfortunately, it’s more common than you think. And oftentimes, negligence by ophthalmologists can result in serious complications.

At Nurenberg, Paris, Heller & McCarthy, our Cleveland medical malpractice attorneys work hard to help people harmed by ophthalmologists get the compensation they deserve. Contact us today to get a free consultation and to learn how we can help.

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