The Journal of the Arkansas Medical Society Med Journal March 2020 Final 2 - Page 4
What Have We Done For You Lately?
The Eyes Have It
by DAVid wroten
executive vice president
Little Rock, Arkansas
rior to the 2019 legislative session, Ar-
kansas optometrists launched a massive
(and successful) grassroots campaign to
convince legislators to pass legislation
to allow them to perform certain surgical pro-
cedures on the eye and eyelid. That legislation
became Act 579 of 2019.
Legislators were misled into believing that
what optometrists wanted to do was only a few
“minor” procedures that they were properly
trained to perform. Well, that wasn’t true. Leg-
islators were misled into believing that passing
this legislation would increase access to vision
care. Well, that wasn’t true either. Despite poll-
ing that clearly showed overwhelming public op-
position, the Legislature passed the bill and the
governor signed it into law.
Optometrists are good at what they do, but
they are not medical doctors. They do not go
to medical school, and they are not residency
trained. It boggles the mind to suggest that at-
tending a weekend course in laser surgery is ad-
equate to provide the high-quality care provided
by a residency-trained ophthalmologist.
The value of your medical education and
training, regardless of your specialty, is clearly
under attack by the stream of legislation pro-
posing to expand the scope of practice by lesser
trained providers. But you have an opportunity
in this case to stand up for your patients and
Safe Surgery Arkansas (SSA) is a coalition of
patients and physicians formed in response to
For more advertising information,
contact Penny Henderson at
501.224.8967 or [email protected]
196 • The Journal of the Arkansas Medical Society
Do voters believe that non-
medical doctors should
be performing surgery?
Absolutely not. A recent poll
conducted by SSA shows that
nearly 90% of voters are likely
to vote against Act 579.
Act 579. SSA has secured 64,027 valid signatures
to place a referendum on the November 2020
ballot. A referendum gives the public an oppor-
tunity to vote on the legislation. A “no” vote in
the election will be a vote to repeal Act 579. Fur-
thermore, because the signatures were turned
in to the secretary of state prior to the effective
date of the Act, the legislation cannot be imple-
mented pending the outcome of the election.
This is the first time, in any state, that a
scope of practice expansion will be decided by
voters rather than politicians. If we are success-
ful, it will set a new (national) standard for op-
posing inappropriate scope of practice expan-
sions. Do the voters value the education and
training of physicians? Apparently, they do. Do
voters believe that non-medical doctors should
be performing surgery? Absolutely not. A recent
poll conducted by SSA shows that nearly 90% of
voters are likely to vote against Act 579.
But we have a lot of work to do between now
and November. Because of the national ramifica-
tions of this repeal effort, you can expect optom-
etrists to raise massive amounts of money from
their out-of-state colleagues. They have already
tried legal action to keep the referendum off the
ballot, and we can expect them to do more.
Physicians cannot allow our state’s oph-
thalmologists to fight this battle alone. Act 579
threatens patient safety and is an attack on the
value of medical school and residency training
for all physicians. You will be hearing more over
the next few months about how you can help.
Meanwhile, you can donate to Safe Surgery Ar-
kansas to help raise the necessary funds that will
be needed to get out the vote in November.
Donations can be made to Safe Surgery
Arkansas, PO Box 56170, Little Rock, AR 72215
or online at safesurgeryarkansas.com. Dona-
tions can be personal or corporate, unlimited in
amount, are not tax deductible, and are subject
to reporting requirements (by SSA). Give gener-
ously! Next time, it could be your specialty.