Eye doc­tor or­dered to pay pa­tient $250,000

Woman left with vi­sion prob­lems that may be per­ma­nent fol­low­ing med­i­cal pro­ce­dures

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

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.

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