Every day, Daniel Mouflier is reminded of what he considers the biggest mistake of his life.
“Hell. It’s been hell,” he says. “I’ve had to re-learn how to live.”
Daniel had laser eye surgery in June of 2011, and he has suffered from painfully dry eyes ever since.
“In the morning my eyes feel like sandpaper, they just hurt,” he says. I put drops in as soon as I wake up. The pain varies quite a bit. It goes from dull to sharp, sometimes I feel like there’s a needle in my eye. It’s unbelievable.”
Daniel says he asked his doctor about the risks, and read all the promotional materials he was given carefully, and there was no warning about the kind of severe, long-lasting pain he now experiences. He says he often sees ads for laser eye surgery, and wonders how the industry gets away with not informing patients of the worst case scenario.
“For almost anything else medication-wise, there’s always a warning afterwards. And I just shake my head and I don’t understand why there isn’t even at least that.”
The US Food and Drug Administration agrees with Daniel. In December, the regulator slapped five American laser surgery clinics with public warnings for failing to properly disclose the true risks in advertising and promotional materials. But consumer advocate Wendy Armstrong says Canadians do not have the same protection.
“As a matter of fact, advertising around healthcare products and services are excluded from many of the traditional consumer protection mechanisms that we have here in Canada,” she says.
Unlike its American counterpart, Health Canada does not have jurisdiction over misleading advertising. That responsibility is delegated to provincial Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons, which only respond to complaints. The federal Competition Bureau is supposed to police false advertising, but refused to tell 16×9 whether they were investigating.
This is not the first time critics have questioned the ethics of the laser eye surgery industry. Morris Waxler worked at the FDA for 26 years, and was largely responsible for approving the surgery called Lasik in the mid-90’s. But now he says the industry lied about the adverse event rate to get the procedure approved, and he’s petitioning to have it banned.
“The question is, how many eyes are you willing to ruin to make a living?”
And when 16×9 visited several Toronto-area laser eye surgery clinics with a hidden camera, we were told there was no risk of severe long term complications. Wendy Armstrong says the lack of regulation in this industry leaves Canadians at a distinct disadvantage.
“I’d be hard pressed to know how any individual looking at having this surgery would be able to find this information,” she says.
And because of that lack of reliable information, the future looks uncertain for unlucky patients like Daniel Mouflier.
“I take it day by day. I hope one day that it does get better and that I’ll have less pain.”
Update: May 3, 2013
In a response to Daniel Mouflier’s interview, which originally aired on February 8, 2013, the clinic that performed his surgery contacted 16×9. The clinic claims Mr. Mouflier signed a consent form outlining the risk of complications, and that those risks and complications – including those experienced by Mr. Mouflier – are also explained on the clinic’s website. The clinic further claims Mr. Mouflier deliberately failed to disclose a pre-existing medical condition to avoid being refused for surgery, and says the patient has never returned to the clinic for treatment of his complications