Sanction for optometrist who claimed all RAF pilots need laser eye surgery

The Bristol optometrist told an undercover reporter his sight would be “much, much better” than 20/20 vision after refractive surgery

The General Optical Council (GOC) has suspended a Bristol optometrist for 12 months after he claimed that all RAF fighter pilots need refractive surgery.

John Margetts was working at a Bristol Optical Express branch in 2015 when he told an undercover BBC reporter that refractive surgery is "25 times more accurate than your glasses" and "you never get 20/20 vision. You get much, much, much, much better vision than that."

When questioned by the reporter about whether laser eye surgery is "100% safe," the Bristol optometrist replied that it was. He later told the BBC that he had misheard the question.

In a GOC decision published last week (11 August), the optical regulator found that Mr Margetts failed to provide the patient with sufficient information about the risks of laser eye surgery. 

The fitness to practise committee also determined that Mr Margetts did not provide his patient with information about refractive surgery in a clear and understandable manner.

Mr Margetts was dismissed by Optical Express after the BBC revealed the findings of their investigation to the company.

The GOC committee found that Mr Margetts’ actions were dishonest and that his fitness to practise is currently impaired.

"The statements, which related to matters within his knowledge, were so inaccurate and exaggerated that he must have known they were false," the GOC stated.

In making a decision on the appropriate sanction, the committee took into account the fact that four character witnesses had testified that Mr Margetts is fundamentally honest.

"The allegation concerns one consultation with one patient in the context of a long and exemplary career," the decision noted.

However, aggravating factors included that Mr Margetts breached the fundamental tenets of the profession and his actions had the potential to influence public confidence in the profession.

The committee decided that a 12-month suspension was an appropriate and proportionate sanction.

"A period of suspension will mark the seriousness of the misconduct in this case and send a message to the Registrant, the profession and the public that such conduct is unacceptable," the decision stated.

Mr Margetts has 28 days to appeal the suspension order. 

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