According to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the number of patients who are filing lawsuits over injuries from laser procedures is growing. Even more troubling is the fact that a large number of the cases brought involve laser surgeries performed by non-doctors.
According to researchers, at least 75 out of 175 laser surgery lawsuits involved procedures performed with someone like a nurse, technician, medical assistant or “intern” as the person operating the laser. As a proportion of the lawsuits, that number more than doubled, from 36 percent of all cases in 2008 to 78 percent in 2011
One problem seems to be that state regulations regarding who can perform such procedures vary greatly. The study suggests that a belief seems to exist that, because such procedures are well-established and common, that they are almost without risk. This is not true, of course; the use of lasers carries with it a number of risks, including burns and eye injuries.
The patchwork of state regulations makes little sense. In Maine and South Dakota, for example, laser surgery must be performed by a physician, while there are no restrictions at all in Nevada or 18 other states. Presumably, in those states with no regulation, people with no training or certification can just open up shop. In Texas, it is possible for a non-doctor to perform a laser procedure, under the supervision of a licensed physician. It’s unclear what “supervision” means, however.
According to an American Society for Dermatologic Surgery Association position statement, when laser procedures are performed by a non-doctor, “(A) supervising physician shall be physically present on-site, immediately available, and able to respond promptly to any question or problem that may occur while the procedure is being performed.”
The greatest number of lawsuits naming non-doctors came from laser hair removal procedures, followed by rejuvenation, which is a procedure that entails using intense pulses of laser light on the face. Laser scar removal and leg vein removal were also cited in a number of lawsuits.
According to the study, most of the laser surgery lawsuits involving procedures not performed by doctors took place outside of formal medical facilities, which suggests that there seems to be greater risk in having such a procedure done by a non-physician, especially in a non-medical facility.
If you or a loved one have been injured by a laser procedure, especially if performed by a non-physician, please contact the Texas Laser Surgery Injury Lawyers at Hill Law Firm as soon as possible, to protect your rights.