12 Feb 2018

Six-year-old boy left blind in one eye after lazy eye diagnosis

2:28 pm on 12 February 2018

A boy was left blind in one eye about a year after an optometrist diagnosed lazy eye and prescribed glasses.

eye doctor, Opthalmology, optometrist

(file photo) Photo: 123rf

In a report released today, Deputy Health and Disability Commissioner Meenal Duggal said the unnamed optometrist failed to provide appropriate care for the 6-year-old boy in March 2014.

The boy's mother took him to the rural optometry clinic in March 2014 because he could not see out of his right eye.

The optometrist, Mr B, diagnosed lazy eye, adding that the boy's visual acuity was 6/10 for the left eye and 6/x for the right. 6/10 means that while standing 6 metres from a Snellen eye chart he read as well as someone with normal eyesight standing 10m from the chart.

He prescribed glasses, recording that the boy - known as Master A - was "a pleasant, young, active and eloquent for his age", adding he did not seem to have any physical or eyesight abnormalities.

Just over a year later, however, Master A consulted two family doctors. One ordered an urgent CT scan, noting that he was "...presenting to school with headaches and altered behaviour. Not able to walk straight. Increasing visual problems. Rubbing forehead and banging head against wall at times. Usually very talkative, not talking at all. Not able to see things and can't read book or iPad..."

The scan revealed the tumour which was removed 8 days later, after which Master A was completely blind in his right eye and with significantly reduced vision in his left eye. His vision a metre from the chart was similar to that of a person with normal vision standing 30m from the chart.

Master A's mother told Ms Duggal she felt things were rushed at the optometrist. Mr B disputed that but retired from clinical practice the following year. He said that in 2014 he was "experiencing stress and anxiety due to personal matters and had difficulty in obtaining locum optometrist cover".

Ms Duggal said the glasses prescription was reasonable, but Mr B's failure to ensure follow-up testing to check the initial diagnosis and to take a full medical history for Master A would be viewed with "severe disapproval" by his peers.

Mr B had since apologised to Master A, stating his profound regret for the poor care, she said.

She added Mr B had asked to be removed from the Optometrist and Dispensing Opticians Board register and was noted on it as non-practising. He remained the director and shareholder of the optometry practice, however.

The boy's family did not respond to Ms Duggal's provisional opinion on the case.