For years Helen Jean Griffin couldn’t see the details of a person’s face or the petals of a flower. The 94 years old was blind in both eyes. She then underwent a new procedure called DSAEK. She had been referred to Kurwa for Fuch’s Dystrophy, a condition that causes clouding of the cornea and leads to blindness. Kurwa knew that a cornea transplant could take up to a year to heal, a significant part on this nonagenarians life expectancy.
In Fuch’s Dystrophy, the endometrial cells behind the cornea stop functioning, cells which usually pump fluid from the eye keeping the cornea clear. DSAEK means “Descemet’s stripping automated endothelial keratoplasty,” a procedure that Kurwa had learned at a training session with the American Academy of Ophthalmology, and which would seem a natural for one who has spent so much time doing LASIK procedures.
This painless procedure restored Griffin to a functional vision. Within months, she began seeing things that see had not seen in years. Her vision has not returned to what it once was due to the additional problem of macular degeneration, so she still cannot read, but she is ecstatic over the results. Griffin notes that she has lived in her current residence for over 6 years, “and I have talked to these people, but I didn’t know what they looked like. I must admit I was amazed at how old some of them looked!”, she joked.
Kurwa has performed DSAEK on three of his patients, one of whom was unhappy with the procedure and ended up requiring a full corneal transplant when the clouding did not clear. And some younger patients with clouding of the cornea have a different condition Keratoconus, a disorder caused by thinning of the cornea. In one case an Ontario resident, Maurice Reyes, had lost his vision due to this non-inflammatory eye condition. At just 22 years old, he couldn’t drive, go shopping or any of the things to which he was accustomed. When his son was born he couldn’t see his face.
Upon referral to Kurwa he underwent cornea transplants. Now he has regained full vision in both eyes. He saw the face of his son for the first time. Reyes noted, “Going into it I was nervous and uneasy. Now I have a chance at a new life.”
The Case For Medical Liability Reform
Access to care is affected by liability concerns.
One in 12 obstetricians who have reported changes in their practice as a result of fear of professional liability claims have stopped delivering babies.
In Massachusetts, 48 percent of physicians have altered or limited their services because of liability concerns. Research shows that over the long term, patients have a greater access to physicians in area with reforms, such as caps on noneconomic damages, than in those areas without caps.
Liability costs affect everyone.
Premium in many states, including Pennsylvania, New York and Connecticut are at levels more than double those of just a few years ago.
Through its impact on defensive medicine, liability pressure increases health care costs by between $84 billion and $151 billion dollars per year.
More than 50% of liability claims against physicians are dropped, withdrawn or dismissed without payment. However even those cases have a price, costing an average of nearly $19, 000 to defend in 2006. In the 91% of trial cases in which physicians are found to be non-negligent, close to $100,000 per case is spent on defense.
Medical liability premiums increased more than 1,045 percent throughout the country from 1976 throughout 2005—except California. There premiums grew less than one third of that amount during the same time span, thanks to reasonable limits on non-economic damages that have been in place for more than three decades.
Since Texas enacted reforms in 2003, the state’s physicians have seen their liability rates cut by an average of 21.3%. Texas has experienced a statewide increase in physicians, especially specialists.
Recent changes in states that have enacted significant reforms, and the long-term trends in California, are supported by a growing body of economic research that links tort reform, such as caps on non-economic damages, to a slower growth in indemnity payments and premiums.