British optometrist charged with negligent manslaughter

September 25, 2015

A locum or fill-in optometrist has been charged with manslaughter by gross negligence after a young patient died following a routine exam.

London-A locum or fill-in optometrist has been charged with manslaughter by gross negligence after a young patient died following a routine exam.

Honey Rose, BsC, 34, was charged after she failed to diagnose 8-year-old Vincent Barker with a papilloedema. According to the Daily Mail, Dr. Rose was working a shift in a Boots-a chain of ophthalmic and dispensing optician stores in England-in Ipswich in February 2012 when she performed an eye examination on Barker.

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Barker died at home on July 13, 2013, after reportedly falling ill at school. Prosecutors allege that Rose should have seen that Barker’s optic nerve was swelling during the examination.

“We would like to offer our sincere condolences to Vincent Barker's family at this difficult time,” a Boots spokeswoman told Express. “Looking after the health of our patient's eyes is at the heart of what we do, and we have co-operated fully with the investigation into this tragic incident.”

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The maximum jail term for manslaughter by gross negligence is life in prison, and this case is aggravated by circumstances including prolonged and deliberately dangerous course of conduct and awareness of a significant risk of death or serious injury. Dr. Rose is expected to stand trial next year.

According to the General Optical Council, Dr. Rose’s registration status is currently suspended.

Next: British optometrists react to the charges

 

British optometrists react to the charges

While a number of medical professionals have faced manslaughter charges in England over the last few years, the case against Dr. Rose is the first of its kind involving an optometrist. British optometrists have express concerns about the case.

The Association of Optometrists released a statement about the case, calling it a tragic event which is devastating for all those involved.

“We are not aware of any previous criminal cases involving optometrists which relate to clinical matters,” the statement continues. “We are unable to comment further on the details of the case as this is now a matter for the Crown Prosecution Service.”

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“All optometrists are shocked by this unprecedented news of an optometrist charged with manslaughter,” says Nick Rumney, MSc Optom, FCOptom, in Hereford, UK. “Few are panicking because we know the standard of proof required is high, indeed being ‘beyond all reasonable doubt.’ We have to wait and see how the law take its course and then take stock.

“The paradox is that the profile might raise awareness of the health value of optometrists to ultimate good,” says Dr. Rumney. “Notwithstanding the tragedy to child, family, and practitioner."

Optometry Times Editorial Advisory Board member Justin Bazan, OD, isn’t British, but he recently weighed in on the controversy on ODs on Facebook. His comment is reprinted here with his permission.

“She is being accused of failing to diagnose papilledema and provide appropriate care and referral. I can’t help but think that if she had an Optos on him, she would be in way better shape,” writes Dr. Bazan, saying that Dr. Rose would have documentation proving there wasn’t any swelling of the optic nerve. “Or on the flipside of that, if there was, she probably wouldn’t have missed it. If she missed that and had a great photo, she is deservingly going to have a tough case to beat. I don’t know enough details, but it’s a sad story already.”

British Contact Lens Association President Brian Tompkins, BSc (Hons), FCOptom, FBCLA, says that optometrists can learn from this case.

“This situation puts a strong case for either dilation or Optomap in everyone,” says Dr. Tompkins.