Lawmakers target inferior Lasik eye procedures

Corrections
<b>CORRECTION, 3/04/09</b> -- This article on Lasik eye surgery centers contained incorrect information about Dr. Paul Cutarelli’s medical license. His license has been restored pending action by the Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners.

Nevada lawmakers heard a bill today aimed at preventing shoddy Lasik eye procedures and cracking down on unlicensed physicians and facilities where these procedures take place.

“Assembly Bill 196 zeroes in on a very specific problem,’’ said Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, today while introducing the bill during a joint meeting of the Assembly Committee on Health and Human Services and the Senate Committee on Health and Education.

Leslie was referring to a situation discovered last year at Valley Eye Center, 2931 N. Tenaya Way.

The facility, now closed, was operating without a licensed ophthalmologist Mondays through Thursdays. Instead of an ophthalmologist, patients who had undergone Lasik refractive eye surgery were undergoing preoperative and postoperative care by an unlicensed physician and a doctor who specializes in rehabilitation medicine.

The unlicensed physician, Dr. Vikas Jain, had lost his medical license in Colorado because of 22 medical malpractice complaints and was the subject of a national television investigation into shoddy Lasik eye procedures.

AB196 adds to existing law regulating refractive eye surgery centers by requiring that ophthalmologists be licensed to perform the procedures through the Nevada State Health Division.

The bill also requires that facilities that offer refractive surgery ensure that a licensed ophthalmologist perform those procedures and that the ophthalmologist is available for preoperative and postoperative care.

The bill also authorizes the state’s health division to issue a cease and desist order if it learned a refractive surgery facility is operating without a license.

In November, a district judge granted a temporary restraining order suspending the licenses of three doctors who worked at the Las Vegas eye surgery center after 30 patients said their procedures resulted in vision damage.

The Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners has filed medical malpractice complaints against Drs. Stella Chou, Paul Cutarelli and Anamika Jain, Vikas Jain’s husband, who worked at Valley Eye Center.

The court order prevents them from practicing medicine in Nevada pending medical board disciplinary action. The order also prevents the practice of medicine at Valley Eye Center.

Contact reporter Annette Wells at awells@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0283.