California governor vetoes bill allowing optometrists to perform laser, scalpel eye surgeries

California Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a controversial bill, Assembly Bill 2236, that would have expanded the scope of practice for optometrists in the state, according to an Oct. 19 report from Medscape

The bill would have allowed optometrists to perform laser and scalpel eye surgeries, procedures typically performed by ophthalmologists. 

The California Optometric Association said the bill would help to make up for eye care physician shortages, especially in rural areas of the state. 

The American Medical Association opposed the bill, fearing it was not in the best interest of patient safety and it could cause surgical complications. 

Under the bill, optometrists would have to complete 32 additional hours of training and 43 procedures on human patients before receiving clearance to perform surgical procedures. This is less training than is required of ophthalmologists, Medscape noted. 

Optometrists in California are certified after a four-year undergraduate degree program and a four-year optometry program, while ophthalmologists need a four-year undergraduate degree, four years of medical school and three years of residency, according to Medscape. 

"I am not convinced that the education and training required is sufficient to prepare optometrists to perform the surgical procedures identified," Mr. Newsom said in a letter to the California State Assembly. "This bill would allow optometrists to perform advanced surgical procedures with less than one year of training. In comparison, physicians who perform these procedures must complete at least a three-year residency program." 

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