Eye doctor ordered to pay patient $250,000
Woman left with vision problems that may be permanent following medical procedures
BURLINGTON — A Burlington ophthalmologist has been ordered to pay more than $250,000 to a patient after a series of medical procedures left her with vision problems that may be permanent.
Earline Ellsworth of Burlington was awarded $100,000 in general damages and more than $150,000 in future care costs after cataract surgery performed on both of her eyes eight years ago by Dr. Robert Singer.
The lengthy decision, comprising 105 pages and nearly 40,000 words, was released two weeks ago following 13 days of testimony last fall in Milton’s Superior Court of Justice.
Attempts to reach Singer by phone for comment were unsuccessful.
The case hinged largely on two different tests that are available to determine the appropriate strength of the artificial lens required to restore proper vision after the cataract is removed.
One test, called an A-scan, is covered by OHIP but the results are much less accurate, particularly in cases of myopia, which was a problem for Ellsworth.
The other test, known as the IOL Master, is far more accurate but the $200 cost is not covered by OHIP.
Ellsworth opted for the A-scan procedure, in part because of financial reasons.
But the measurements of her eyes were unusually inaccurate, a fact that Singer knew at the time. The inaccuracy of the readings made it difficult to determine the proper strength of replacement lens required.
While the cataracts were successfully removed by Singer, the newly-installed lens left her with poor vision because of the earlier measurement inaccuracies.
Attempts were then made to rectify the problems, both by Singer and a second ophthalmologist, including the addition of a second lens installed over top of the newlyinstalled replacements.
The doubling up of the lens helped solve some of Ellsworth’s vision problems but Justice Kendra Coats ruled that the procedure was also the cause of a new and more serious problem that continues to plague Ellsworth.
After the surgeries, Ellsworth suffered severely from a condition known as dysphotopsia, which results in light sensitivity, the perception of shadows that aren’t real and the appearance of light bursts and stars.
The symptoms were severe enough, the judge ruled, that they interfered with her day-to-day activities and affected her quality of life to a significant degree.
The judge ruled that once Singer knew the results of the A-scan were particularly unreliable, the standard of care required him to inform her that the inaccuracy “significantly altered the likelihood of achieving Ms. Ellsworth’s expected outcome,” the judge stated.
“The standard of care required Dr. Singer to give Ms. Ellsworth another opportunity to choose the IOL Master or to decline and reasonably expect a different outcome,” the judge added.
“His failure to bring the inadequacy of Ms. Ellsworth’s A-scan results to her attention constitutes a failure to disclose a material risk of the cataract surgery.”
Singer has one of the highest ratings among area ophthalmologists on the RateMDs website, with several reviews noting his kind, caring and professional demeanour.