An ophthalmologist is an osteopathic doctor associated with treating and diagnosing different eye-related problems and injuries. So, an ophthalmologist expert witness is also an eye doctor having certification to offer testimony in malpractice cases. They are called upon by an attorney to consult on medical issues like orbital or ocular health, blindness, vision problems, neuro-ophthalmology, glaucoma, cataract, macular degeneration, dry eyes, optic nerves, retinal surgeries, and vitreous disorders. They can also provide deposition and testimony in cases related to anesthesia, or refractive surgery.
In this article, we’ll discuss the role of ophthalmologists with special reference to cataract and glaucoma surgeries.
Cataract surgery: what is it and what are the malpractices?
A cataract is an eye problem that is mainly prevalent in old adults. If you have blurred vision, it is mostly because your lens is getting cloudy. At times, eye drops or glasses cannot correct this issue and this is when an ophthalmologist can recommend cataract surgery. In this surgery, the cloudy lens will be removed and it’ll be replaced with a new artificial lens. The best thing about this surgery is that it is done on an outpatient basis. The modern cataract surgery procedure namely phacoemulsification can be performed with smaller incisions and it is far better than traditional surgical techniques. This process reduces the risks of cataract surgical complications and promotes rapid healing. The incisions will be closed and the eye is bandaged with a protective cover. After a few days, you’ll be asked to visit the doctor again where the doctor will open the shield from your eye and will guide you on the future course of action.
However, patients can sustain injuries due to the negligence of the surgeon. When the doctor breaches the duty of care causing injury to the patient, it can be termed as a medical malpractice case. To get your deserving compensation, you need to seek professional help from an attorney and a cataract surgery expert witness. Before that, one should know the cases in which you can claim compensation. Some of the examples of cataract surgical errors include-
- Retinal detachment– This is one of the common side-effects that happen after cataract surgery. There can be malpractice lawsuits against the surgeon if it includes misdiagnosis or informed consent. If retinal pathology symptoms are found, it is imperative to perform a dilated exam. The outcome of retinal detachment will depend on the length and extent of the detachment.
- Corneal edema– There can be a case of negligence if the patient faces swelling of the cornea as a result of the trauma of the surgery. Negligence malpractices may be brought against the medical practitioner in case of excessive trauma or insufficient assertiveness in treating the problem with steroids. All of this may necessitate corneal transplantation.
- Issues with the intraocular lens– Intra Ocular Lens are placed inside the eye after removing the cloudy lens. This artificial lens is placed to restore the vision. Some of the major instances of malpractices include- miscalculations in deciding the power of the eye, failure to address the cause of deviation. Sometimes, surgical errors may take place if the doctor fails to place the lens correctly and this may lead to visual disturbances and displacement.
- Eye infections– This is a very common yet serious complication that may happen after cataract surgery. The post-surgical eye infections are known as endophthalmitis. You should immediately get in touch with a retina specialist as soon as you discover this problem. Any kind of vision problems or pain in the eyes will require immediate medical attention. If the surgeon fails to address these problems and refer the patient to a specialist within 10 days of such discovery, then it’ll constitute a case of negligence.
- Informed consent– The surgeon needs to inform the patients regarding the benefits and risks before performing the surgery. Besides this, the surgeon should scrutinize the previous medical history of the patient to find out other medical complications. Informed consent is the process of seeking approval from patients before conducting surgery or another medical intervention. It’s an agreement that happens between you and your healthcare provider on the permission of treatment and services. The consent should be 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. If the doctor fails to consider these aspects, the patient can file malpractice litigation against them.
If you or your loved ones have sustained injuries or complications due to the negligence of the surgeon, then you’ll need to retain a lawyer for the same. The attorneys, at some point of the investigation, will call upon an expert witness to get medico-legal guidance on the matter. Remember that malpractice cases involve complex elements and without the help of expert advice, it’s not possible to comprehend these intricate details. They’ll prepare case reports based on the findings, calculate the damages caused to the patient, determine the fault of the surgeon and lastly, the expert witness has to establish that there has been no contributory negligence. Because in the case of contributory negligence, the compensation amount will be reduced and if the plaintiff is responsible for the majority of the damages, the defense might take stern steps against the plaintiff. Hence, all these issues have to be determined before filing a malpractice case. The role of expert witnesses is extremely crucial because it is their testimony that can make or break the case. Though the jurors are not bound to consider everything that the experts say, it’s difficult to give a fair judgment without seeking their opinion.
Glaucoma Surgery- Why it is done and what are the complications you can face?
To understand the role of a glaucoma surgery expert witness, it is important to understand the reasons for getting a glaucoma surgery and the complications in it.
The majority of the glaucoma surgical errors are linked to the negligence of the surgeon. Instances like delayed diagnosis, failure to determine glaucoma problems, breach of duty of care, failure to obtain informed consent are some of the malpractices.
Glaucoma is a problem of the ocular perceiver. When the fluids do not circular properly within the ocular perceiver, it leads to a buildup of pressure causing damage. If you are facing glaucoma problems, you might face any of the symptoms mentioned below.
- Loss of vision
- Visual halos
- Eyes have a hazy appearance
- Blurred vision
- Tunnel vision
- Eye pain
- Vomiting or nausea
Glaucoma surgery is the best treatment for glaucoma problems. However, these symptoms can worsen if there is negligence by the surgeon. Patients can get compensation for sustaining injuries due to this breach of duty of care. Some of the glaucoma malpractice cases include- failure to obtain consent from the patient, misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, eye infections, choroidal detachment, malignant glaucoma, hypotony maculopathy, ocular decompression retinopathy, and retinal detachment. If you sustain such injuries due to the negligence of the patient, you need to retain a legal representative. The attorneys will seek medico-legal help from an ophthalmologist expert witness to understand the unprofessional conduct by the surgeon. The lawsuit will be filed once it is proved that there has been malpractice by the surgeon.
Malpractices related to glaucoma surgery:
Just like any other operation, glaucoma surgery also has certain risks. Therefore, the surgeon should have an open dialogue with the patient before proceeding with the surgery. Some of the common side effects of these surgeries are as follows:
- Eye infections
- Scarring cataract formation
- Bleeding in the eye
- Loss of vision
- Fluid pockets behind the retina
If you are facing any of these side effects as a result of surgical negligence, you should immediately get in touch with an attorney. These attorneys are experienced and they know how to prove negligence. Usually, this is done with the help of expert witnesses. In this context, one needs to understand that the testimony offered by these experts can make or break your case. Therefore, these expert witnesses have to be selected very carefully. To do this, one needs to consider the following factors before making the choice.
Factors to consider before choosing an eye expert witness:
Below mentioned is a list of factors that you must consider before choosing an expert witness.
- Experience, qualifications and Certification of the ophthalmologist–
The first thing that you need to consider is the educational qualifications, experience, and if the doctor has the license to testify in medical negligence cases. Now in a general sense, most doctors have a good educational background. But what is important to note here is whether they have a license to be an expert witness. All ophthalmologist expert witnesses are eye specialists but all eye doctors are not expert witnesses. In other words, these experts should have board certification to provide depositions and testimony in court proceedings. Note that the case reviews and written documents offered by these experts will play a crucial role in the court. The testimony offered needs to be clinically true and scientifically proven.
The degrees, qualifications, and experience won’t count if the expert witness is unable to simplify the complex matter of the case. Preparation of the written documents is not enough because these documents are written using medical terminologies. What is important here is to explain the findings in simple language so that it is easily digestible by the decision-makers.
Apart from degrees, qualifications, or certification, it’s important to know how well these witnesses can communicate. Any medical malpractice case is complicated because of the complex elements. Usually, most malpractices happen because of the wrong usage of instruments, misdiagnosis, failure to seek informed consent, delayed diagnosis, and others. Therefore, it’s important to find an expert witness who can simplify these technical elements and communicate these findings to the jury. Judges and decision-makers do not have knowledge of the technical matters of a medical malpractice case. Degrees and certificates won’t count if the witness is unable to present the facts correctly. How well the expert can persuade will determine the direction of the outcome of the case.
- Check the success rates of the cases testified by the expert:
You need to go through the other cases in which the expert witness in question has offered testimony or deposition. It’s important to know if the plaintiff in previous cases has won the case or not. This is relevant to the communication factor. The plaintiff can win the case if the expert witness can present the right facts to the jury. Besides this, the experts should also have the experience to negate the claims put forward by the defendant’s attorney. The better the communication is, the greater is the chance of winning the case.
There will be times when the defendant will ask the same questions and try to confuse the expert. These are the situations when the expert should boldly negate the claims put forth by the defendant. How well the expert witness presents the facts will give a hint on who will win the case. To some extent, it will decide whether the case will be in your favor or not.
By considering the above points, it should be easier to find the best expert witness for your case. Apart from the factors mentioned above, expert witnesses should also be experienced in calculating the compensation amount. Without determining the severity of the damages, it’s impossible to find out the exact amount. They should also have the knowledge to explain how they have made the calculations and above all, why it is true. Malpractice cases require immediate legal help. This is because there’s a certain time limit within which the plaintiff needs to make the claim. Usually, this time frame is two years from the date of the procedure that injured or worsened your condition.