The Oklahoma legislature failed to approve a billwhich was backed by organized medicinethat would have revoked optometrists ability to perform certain surgical procedures.

Introduced earlier this year, the bill (H.B. 2740) was strongly supported by Oklahoma PatientsFirst, a group that describes itself as a grassroots organization of 10 medical associations, including the Oklahoma Academy of Ophthalmology, the Oklahoma State Medical Association and the Oklahoma Osteopathic Association. The group says its goal is to ensure the safety, accessibility and quality of patient care in Oklahoma.

Had the bill been approved, it would have amended the optometric practice act by deleting language that permits nonlaser surgery procedures. It also would have inserted language that limits what specific procedures optometrists could perform, such as foreign body removal and punctal dilation.

Also, the proposed bill stated, the practice of optometry shall not include the performance of any other procedure using instruments, including scalpels, needles, or similar devices, in which human tissue is cut, burned, vaporized, or otherwise altered by any mechanical means or ionizing radiation, including procedures using instruments that require closing by suturing, clamping, gluing or other methods.

On February 21, the Oklahoma house health committee voted 12 to 9 against the bill, killing it.

The legislature again confirmed their opinion that optometrists should continue to do the same procedures that they have done for the past 25 years, says vice president of the Oklahoma State Board of Examiners in Optometry, David Cockrell, O.D.

There has been no public outcry from the citizens of the state Oklahoma. There are certainly no documented cases of harm, he says. And theres absolutely no justification for the rallying cry of surgery by surgeons, since so many other non-surgeons do exactly the same procedures.

Still, Dr. Cockrell says, this probably wont be the last time optometrists in Oklahoma have to defend their scope of practice.

Vol. No: 143:03Issue: 3/15/2006