On October 29, Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry signed a rule that confirms the states current scope of optometric practice and more narrowly defines permissible optometric surgical procedures.

The rule is the end result of more than five months of deliberation on optometrists ability to perform surgeryafter the state attorney general issued an opinion in April that the wording of the statute did not specifically allow or disallow surgical procedures.

The addition of the word surgery to the rules established by the Board of Examiners in no way expands, amplifies or changes the scope of practice for optometry, says the Oklahoma Association of Optometric Physicians. The ruling merely enables O.D.s to continue to provide the same level of care and to perform the same procedures they have in the past.

But ophthalmologists, as well as other M.D.s and osteopaths, contend that the new regulations could be interpreted in a way that would allow optometrists to perform more than the simple procedures they are doing now.

This regulation will allow non-surgeons to perform more than 100 types of surgeries, to use a scalpel to cut the eyelid to remove skin cancer lesions, to cut the eye surface to remove cancer lesions, to stick a needle into the center of the eyeball to inject medication, and to inject Botox around the eye, says Ann Warn, M.D., president of the Oklahoma Academy of Ophthalmology.

Nothing could be farther from the truth, says optometrist David Cockrell, president of the Oklahoma Board of Examiners in Optometry. Optometric physicians are excluded from performing many procedures, such as cosmetic eye surgery, the removal of corneal or malignant growths, and sticking needles in or injecting substances into the eyeball. It is ludicrous to suggest that we would endanger our patients or put our reputations at risk when we have provided quality eye health care to Oklahomans for more than a century. We are diligent to provide only that care for which we are educated and trained.

Vol. No: 141:11Issue: 11/15/04