LASIK eye surgery – Will you want your glasses back?

Submitted by Joann Ciszczon BS, RN, RRT

Tags: ethical principles ethical standards ethical values lasik eye surgery

LASIK eye surgery – Will you want your glasses back?

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As nurses we may encounter patients considering LASIK eye surgery, have family members contemplating this elective surgery or may have even thought about it for ourselves. Please read the following before making or advising a decision such as this.

What follows is information gathered concerning the unethical misinformation of the general public regarding the hazards of Lasik eye surgery. LASIK eye surgery “is a procedure that corrects certain vision problems, reducing or eliminating the need for eyeglasses or corrective lenses. LASIK is short for laser-assisted in-situkeratomileusis, the technical term for the surgical procedure” (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2011). Lasik “permanently changes the shape of the cornea, the clear covering of the front of the eye, using an excimer laser” (United States Food and Drug Administration, 2011).

LASIK eye surgery has been and still is portrayed to the general public as an easy fix to wearing glasses by the media. The average newspaper usually contains at least one advertisement for LASIK surgery for a certain price. Phone books can carry an attractive advertisement and even billboards can have a cute advertisement with the willing recipient of LASIK eye surgery throwing their glasses into the air. Advertisements with low money down or getting the procedure done on one eye with one eye free or an offer for a free consultation abound. Reality makeover shows as seen on television, frequently offer LASIK surgery to the makeover recipient and are portrayed equivalent to getting new make-up applied or a new hairstyle.

The lure of LASIK surgery is a seductive one both in cost, ease of availability, convenience, and vanity. The desire to be able to see without the need of glasses can be great. This desire can override possible side effects and downplay potential hazards that can be in the least uncomfortable. Many affect vision permanently, causing visual impairment, and even death in the way of infections and suicide chosen by sufferers of unrelenting side effects.

Dr. Morris Waxler, PhD is attempting to stop this procedure all together. He has written a Citizen Petition requesting “the Commissioner of Food and Drugs to withdraw FDA approval for all LASIK devices and issue a Public Health Advisory with a voluntary recall of LASIK devices in an effort to stop the epidemic of permanent eye injury caused by lasers and microkeratomes used for LASIK eye surgery” (Waxler Regulatory Consultancy, 2011).

According to his petition (Waxler Regulatory Consultancy, 2011), “many thousands of eyes have been damaged beyond repair by LASIK devices since the 1990s”. Such devices “transform healthy corneas into sick corneas” that:

  • Never completely heal
  • Are permanently weakened, vulnerable to trauma and inflammation
  • Cause neuropathic dry eyes
  • Have pathology that progresses annually
  • Are vulnerable to blinding corneal bulging (keratectasia)
  • Compromises night vision
  • Have unstable vision corrections that regress
  • Require eye care that otherwise would not be needed (Waxler, Regulatory Consultancy, 2011)

There are many websites sighting LASIK horror stories. Even with this petition and the numerous postings of sufferers, this procedure continues to be done and advertised. It is buyer beware. The presentation of LASIK eye surgery to the public is unethical.

Dr. Waxler is exercising most prominently, the ethical principle of justice. Justice according to (Beauchamp & Childress, 2008) guarantees “the fair and equitable distribution of benefits, risks, and cost”. It is known as the “ethical principle of fairness” (Beauchamp & Childress, 2008). The general public should be informed of the potential real problems associated with a real surgical procedure and without the hype of the media portraying this procedure as something to be taken lightly. Advertisements of sales, and buy one get one free, marketing belong at the local department store and not for a surgical procedure on something as precious and delicate as eyes.

Another ethical principle requested by Dr. Waxler, is the practice of nonmaleficence on the part of the Federal Drug Administration. This is the ethical principle of “causing no harm to individuals, groups, and communities” (Beauchamp & Childress, 2008). Certainly there is the potential for harm with this procedure.

Maybe most importantly Dr. Waxler is calling for autonomy. It is “the ethical principle known as respect for persons. This principle provides individuals with the right to make free, uncoerced, and informed decisions. Autonomy is the ethical principle that provides the framework of full disclosure and informed consent” (Beauchamp & Childress, 2008).

In its present state of management and use LASIK fails miserably on all counts. The magnitude of the effects on the population is yet to be seen. It is time for this risky procedure to end.


  1. Beauchamp, T., & Childress, J. (2008). Principles of biomedical ethics (6th ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  2. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2011). Lasik eye surgery.
  3. United States Food and Drug Administration. (2011). Lasik.
  4. Waxler Regulatory Consultancy. (2011). Citizen Petition. Retrieved from Oxford University Press