Saturday 23 June 2018

Woman claims laser eye surgery has left her 'functionally blind', court hears

Sarah Roche from Cork leaving the Four Courts after a High Court action. Pic: Collins Courts
Sarah Roche from Cork leaving the Four Courts after a High Court action. Pic: Collins Courts

Tim Healy

A young woman has been left "essentially functionally blind" as a result of undergoing laser eye surgery which was unsuitable for her, it has been claimed at the High Court.

Sarah Roche should never have been advised to have the wavefront LASIK surgery she underwent in 2007 and, as a result of it, has been left essentially functionally blind except when she can wear complicated contact lenses she can tolerate for a maximum eight hours daily, her counsel Oonagh McCrann SC said.

Ms Roche claims, for reasons including she had a thin cornea and a prior refractive history and/or a history of progressive myopia, she was not suitable for the LASIK surgery performed on her by Frank Lavery at the Optical Express clinic in Dublin on May 7, 2007.

In proceedings which opened before Mr Justice Kevin Cross on Tuesday, she has sued Mr Lavery, a consultant ophthalmic surgeon, of Ailesbury Drive, Dublin 4, and DCM Laser Clinic Ltd, trading as Optical Express, with registered offices at Wellington Road, Dublin 4.

Both defendants have delivered full defences denying her claims and the case is listed to last three weeks.

Ms Roche, a project officer now living in Australia, was living at Meadow Grove Estate, Blackrock, Cork, when she underwent the surgery in Dublin in May 2007 after which she attended post-operative reviews in Cork before leaving Ireland in 2008.

Among her claims, she alleges the procedure carried out was unsuitable for her, she was not advised of the risks and the necessary scans were either not carried out or, if they were, were not properly analysed.

Ms McCrann said extensive discovery was sought, no records of scans were provided and the defence said they could not find them.

Ms McCrann said the procedure was recommended to her client and she was delighted she was considered suitable for it. While the defence disputed Ms Roche attended all post-operative reviews, she maintained she attended all post operative appointments she was requested to attend, counsel said.

Ms Roche had travelled to Australia in 2008 and towards 2012 began to notice a deterioration in her eyesight, counsel said. She was referred to a specialist and diagnosed with Ectasia secondary to Lasik treatment. This was an advanced progressive eye disease, where the cornea gets thinner and bulges, counsel said.

Having been advised the condition would continue to deteriorate and she required treatment involving collagen cross linking on both eyes, she underwent that treatment which was aimed at halting the progression of Ectasia in both eyes.

Ms Roche is now in a position where she has vision when she wears a complicated contact lenses system which she can tolerate for about eight hours but she otherwise is functionally blind, counsel said.

In evidence, Ms Roche said she wanted the laser treatment before going trekking in South America. She said she never signed a consent form for the 25 minute procedure and did not remember any explanations of the procedure or the risks involved.

She got both eyes done on the day. “It was quick and easy. I was really happy with it."

Around Halloween that year she noticed a black dot on her eye and later had to have operations on her eyes while living in Australia, she said. She now has to wear contact lenses for vision and without them cannot see very well.

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