According to a recent study in Clinical Ophthalmology, 42% of patients ages 5 to 19, and close to 50% of children ages 11 to 13 in the United States have myopia. Given these numbers, it is no wonder myopia management is a hot topic in eye care. As O.D.s, we are on the frontline of what some are calling a “myopia epidemic,” so what are our legal responsibilities with regard to new treatments, such as contact lenses and glasses, among other technologies, to treat and, possibly, prevent the progression of myopia?
Here are four things we should consider when managing younger patients who have myopia:
We will continue to see more treatments approved or accepted for the treatment of myopia, and we must keep up with these current technologies and treatments. The reason: Successful malpractice claims usually result when O.D.s do not conform to the current standard of care. As technologies improve and research is published, the standard of care for myopia will evolve.
Not educating patients about possible treatment options could leave us open to a malpractice claim. Therefore, even if we are not using or prescribing one or more specific treatments for myopia in our practices, we still have a duty to inform our patients of the options.
A patient education brochure may be a good way to outline the various treatment modalities.
ACQUIRE INFORMED CONSENT
When providing treatment options to our patients, we should always obtain informed consent, particularly when a myopia control treatment is off-label. For example, atropine therapy is well researched, with studies revealing benefits in our myopic patients, but the use of atropine for the treatment of myopia progression is an off-label use.
REFER, IF NECESSARY
If parents and/or patients choose a treatment that we do not provide in our practices, we have a duty to refer them to a colleague who does. Patients have a right to these options even if we cannot or do not provide them in our practices. As their primary eye care providers, we should direct them to places we trust will provide the best care for their needs.
PROTECTION ALL AROUND
Myopia has long been considered a refractive error treated simply with corrective lenses. As the science and technology progress and more and more options to slow or prevent its progression emerge, our legal and ethical obligations to follow the steps outlined above expand as well. Let’s protect our patients and ourselves. OM
Disclaimer: The information in this article is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. The information contained in this article is not legal advice, and it is not intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this article should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this article without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.