INTERVIU Magazine: 11 June 2017 10 Jul 2017 15:18 #1
Following Alejandro Vila's court hearing v Clinica Baviera in May, Spanish magazine 'interviu' published a six page article on refractive eye surgery in the 11 June edition.
Thanks to Leila Partovi for this lengthy translation
'Those affected by eye surgery demand recognition as victims of medical fraud and for a better regulation of the sector.
They say their farewell to glasses and contacts has actually turned into a torture: they have lost vision, suffer chronic pains and spend some 200 Euros a month on eye drops to relieve those symptoms. They report these complications after undergoing eye surgery to correct their myopia or astigmatism. Members of ASACIR (an association for victims of refractive surgery), they ask for improvements in the regulations and that they be treated as victims of “medical fraud”.
The clinics, meanwhile, defend the safety of the techniques they use – in Spain there are 160000 annual surgeries of this type – and they say that the percentage of complications is less than 1%.
“There was a before and an after of my surgery. Today I am not the happy person that I was. Sometimes I don’t feel able to go on like this”. When she looks back, Tatiana Verdion (from Asturias, Spain), a 39 year old administrator, remembers her lifetime ophthalmologist in Gijon recommending for years that she have eye surgery to correct her myopia and astigmatism. When she looks back to 2013, Tatiana recalls how finally at the end of that year, following that advice, she decided to enter the operating room of an Oviedo clinic to put an end to her vision problems for good. This was a watershed moment that has marked her life. Permanent pain; dry eye – a change that comes about on the surface of the cornea and the conjunctiva due to lack of tears or bad quality tears-; halos; starburst; double vision; the need to always wear sunglasses…
These are the complications that the surgery left her with, she says. “From the very first day I couldn’t see well. The doctor prescribed me artificial tears. They told me that these issues were normal in the first 3 months. Then, that they were normal in the first 6 months… and for me to use more drops…” she says.
Tatiana Verdion is the secretary of ASACIR, run by Alejandro Lopez Vila, which brings together patients who are unhappy with the results of surgery undergone to correct defects such as myopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism using laser or intraocular lenses. “They performed Lasik on me”, specifies Verdion referring to one of the techniques most used in the world of laser surgery. In barely 2 years, explains Lopez Vila, the association has managed via its website to reach out to a thousand victims.
The victims accuse the private clinics of using deceptive marketing, minimizing the side effects - which they say affect more than 30% of people who undergo the surgery - and not adequately informing the patient. They ask that those who have been left with chronic complications of the surgery be recognised as “victims of medical fraud” or that the health authorities bring about “radical changes” in the regulation of this type of activity. And they report that the average monthly expenditure on treatment for a victim is 200 Euros.
Needles in the eyes
The ophthalmology clinics consulted by Interviu - the majority of which wished to remain anonymous - defend the safety of this type of technique. Some refer to the million plus surgical procedures that they have performed in the last two decades and say that the complications are less than 1%. An ophthalmology company with more than 50 branches throughout Spain states that “80% of our patients come from other patients who are happy with the results”.[Presumably the same as high street chains in the UK, where clinics pay people to recommend friends]
Like Tatiana, Alejandro had Lasik 3 years ago. He had it in the Lugo branch of a chain of clinics which is well established as a leader in laser surgery, Clinica Baviera. “I had 6.25 diopters in each eye. My glasses had just broken and I saw an advert for a clinic. They painted a rosy picture of a simple operation, minor surgery, a quick and same-day procedure”, he says. They even performed on him a specific procedure to prevent halos and glare. But, he recalls, from the very first moment he had precisely these kind of side effects: halos and glare. “They told me that with time it would resolve. Then later, that it was an isolated case. After that, I stopped contacting them”, he adds.
He says how he had to drop his Psychology studies – with only two subjects and the final year project to go - and that he suffers “serious psychological problems and has even had suicidal thoughts”. This is a recurring theme, he claims, among those who suffer these kind of complications. He feels a constant pain that never goes: “It feels like needles in my eyes 24 hours a day”.
The complications, according to ASACIR, are numerous: more than 30% of patients see halos at 3 months post surgery; 16% glare and 30% have dry eye. “It is a matter of public health due to the high number of victims,” Lopez Vila explains, “with the peculiarity that it is a surgery that is not medically necessary. It is a sector that brings in a lot of money. In Spain they do a lot more of these surgeries than in other countries”. The president of the association provides the statistics: in Spain there are 3.38 times more surgeries than in Germany; 2.17 times more than in Portugal (where it is covered by the national health system); 2.2 times more than in Italy; 3.7 times more than in Belgium; 2.54 times more than in France; 4.46 than in the Netherlands and 1.93 times more than in UK. “The average is 3.82. In other words, almost quadruple, on average, other European countries”, he indicates.
Interviu wanted to compare these statistics with the Sociedad Espanola de Cirugia Ocular Implanto-Refractiva, however, it has not replied to the questions posed by this magazine.
No going back
Ismael de Lope, a 34 year old computer specialist, supports the work of ASACIR. What started as a laser surgery procedure in 2001 to correct his myopia turned into an arduous medical struggle. “At the end of that year they had to do a re-touch. In 2006 I was still not seeing well. My ophthalmologist said that I could not have Lasik again and that he would do PRK (another type of laser surgery). Soon after, I started to have vision problems. He recommended rigid contact lenses. I tried them out, but they would all fall out when I blinked. I went to another clinic, they checked my corneas, and it turns out that the Lasik surgery had exceeded safe limits. They recommended scleral lenses. In the beginning they were good, but they would cloud up very quickly and were very expensive. Every year it would cost me some 800 Euros to renew them”.
Ismael, who lives in Torrejon de Ardoz (Madrid), spent 3 years like this. “I went to another clinic, and due to the state of my corneas, they recommended a corneal transplant. After 3 years on the waiting list, I had a lamellar corneal transplant in the left eye”.
Melisa Castelo, from A Coruna, has come forward to speak publicly so that “people know what’s going on. And so that we are heard”, says this young lady who in November 2015, with high myopia and astigmatism, decided to follow the advice of her ophthalmologist and have intraocular lenses. She says that they told her again and again that if she had any issues, “they could be removed without any problems, as simple as that. It was sold to me as a simple and reversible procedure”. The reality, she explains, was different. Melisa, then 25 years old, spent 6000 Euros on the first operation. When she started to feel the initial problems - “I was seeing distorted, double, I realised I couldn’t focus if I wasn’t in natural light…”- Melisa thought that her problems were part “of the healing process”. She explained it to the specialist and he “reacted surprised. He told me to pop into the clinic, where they had a look and said the problem was that I have very large pupils”. Melisa then suggested a further surgical intervention, but the ophthalmologist advised against it despite them having told her that the procedure was reversible.
From then on, her vision problems went from bad to worse. She underwent a second operation for which she paid another 1000 Euros. “I gained visual acuity but lost visual quality. I went to other clinics where they told me the solution was to change the lenses and I finally ended up in a state hospital in Santiago, where they told me that I had been lied to, that I have a damaged crystalline lens and that they would not deal with it as the surgery was done in a private clinic”.
Melisa never lodged a complaint. Like other victims, she signed a consent form before the implanting of the intraocular lenses. Tatiana, in spite of the time that has elapsed since her surgery, is contemplating taking it further. “The problem” says the president of ASACIR “is that it is very difficult to get an expert opinion, due to the corporatism of the industry”.
In his case, on the contrary, it was the Clinica Baviera, where he had his laser surgery, that brought a civil lawsuit against Lopez Vila. The hearing was held on 3 May in Lugo for “injury to honour”, explains Antonio Peral, from the legal department of Clinica Baviera. He says that, after a handwriting expert’s assessment, they attribute to Lopez Vila “several acts of graffiti in our clinic in Lugo, accusing us of being fraudsters. We erased it and then it would reappear. On another occasion our clinic was vandalized. We are asking for financial compensation and that this activity is ceased because graffiti has been appearing all over the city and has affected our reputation”. [Excellent news!]
Peral says he does not understand the attitude of Lopez Vila because, despite the complications that he claims his surgery left him with, he never made any complaint of negligence to the ophthalmology clinic.'
"After a long ordeal that began in 2001 with an operation to correct his myopia, Ismael de Lope from Madrid had to undergo a corneal transplant."
"LASER SURGERY REACHES BRITISH PARLIAMENT
• For Alejandro Lopez Vila it was a momentous and emotional day. In October 2015 he went to the British Parliament as a representative of Spanish victims, an action initiated by victim and activist Sasha Rodoy for the purpose of gaining support from MP's for regulation of the refractive eye surgery industry. The British MP John McDonnell (centre in the photo) is one of those who have most fought in this area. According to ASACIR, campaigns such as this are also taking place in countries such as USA and France. In Spain, Eva Solla, Vice President of the Parliament of Galicia and health spokesperson of En Marea, has publicly shown her support for the victims of this type of surgery".
Alejandro L. Vila will publish the outcome of his court hearing in due course...
Alejandro Vila... 09 May 2017 20:30 #2
Unlike the UK system, Alejandro explained to me that the judge will inform both parties of his judgement at a later date, and then the losing party can appeal, but there will be no public hearing as it is passed onto more senior judges.
Published on his website, Alejandro says that the Association is following the model established in the UK where the issue has been raised in Parliament, that he spoke at Westminster [Bad Eye Day] and that Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell sent a letter of support for the hearing.
Alejandro says this is not the case in Spain, while there have been fines against the refractive eye surgery clinics there has been no political action.
He wrote, "Facing up to health giants brings consequences, but we will not be deterred in our fight against the practices of these clinics. Clinica Baviera has been charged with producing deceptive advertising, was the object of fines of up to 260,000 Euros and found guilty of various cases of medical negligence.
Their aim is clear, to silence the victims, who number in their thousands.
Just as in the US, UK, France, and other states, people have been pursued by the medical industry for raising legitimate claims.”
SPAIN 02 May 2017 15:11 #4
Just when you think this industry couldn’t sink any lower - Clinica Baviera in Spain is suing damaged patient Alejandro L. Vila for speaking the truth!
If you attended Bad Eye Day lobby @ the Houses of Parliament on 14 October 2015, hosted by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, you will remember hearing from Spanish campaigner Alejandro, President of Asociación Afectados Cirugía Refractiva (ASACIR).
His presentation was translated by Seb Corbyn, reporting the same problems in Spain as in every country where refractive surgery is unethically performed without regulation.
Now aged 28, to correct his distance vision (myopia), Alejandro underwent laser eye surgery at Clinica Baviera in Lugo, North West Spain, on 14 April 2014,
Similar to Optical Express in the UK and Ireland, Clinica Baviera is the predominant refractive eye surgery provider in Spain, operating out of approx fifty locations.
Sadly, like untold thousands of us worldwide, Alejandro’s surgery left him with irreparable problems, including poor vision, dry eyes, chronic eye pain, and more…
Alejandro spoke on Spanish television and told the interviewer, "I feel like I've got needles in my eyes practically 24 hours a day, which has led to mental health issues, the loss of friends and family relationships, having to give up my studies and a long list of other issues, eventually leading me to contemplate suicide”
The clinic is suing Alejandro for having publicised the dangers of refractive eye surgery and purportedly causing damage to their reputation, claiming 'damage to honour’, and seeking 9,000€ in compensation.
ASACIR asks, 'what honour?’.
The hearing is tomorrow and a demonstration has been organised @ 9.30am outside the court building at Juzgados de Lugo, Instancia 5.
On behalf of My Beautiful Eyes and OERML supporters, I voice our unconditional support for Alejandro.
I also express our collective feeling of revulsion for Clinica Baviera, who are using legal means to bully a young man they have left damaged for the rest of his life, in their futile attempt to silence the truth and stop him warning others of the real dangers of refractive eye surgery.
However, I also THANK Clinica Baviera from the bottom of my heart, as this WILL backfire on them, and the entire Spanish refractive eye surgery industry!
Because, it will generate press and media interest - as when Optical Express spent more than £1 million trying to have OERML website taken down, claiming ‘abusive registration’.
Meanwhile, John McDonnell sent his support for Alejandro earlier today
Btw, the Clinica Baviera surgeon who ruined Alejandro’s eyes, Javier Coloma Bockos, also works at La Rosaleda Hospital in Santiago de Compostela - avoid!