(Note from Erin: Fox, NBC, New York Times, NPR (to name just a few) and almost every other major news outlet has talked about the fact that for some people, Lasik causes far more problems than solutions. Including, as we see here, documented suicides. If you have had Lasik and do not suffer from any of its complications we are very happy for you, but know that the FDA official responsible for getting it approved is now a whistle blower working non stop to get it banned! We love this guy! (watch the videos).
We cannot imagine the pain and anguish her family, children, colleagues and friends are feeling right now.
At the network since 2012, Starr, 35, had been off the air while recovering from dry eye and pain resulting from a Lasik SMILE procedure she had received in October. Tweeting on Nov. 14th she said, “Yesterday was a struggle for me. I really wanted to come back but need more time to recover. Please keep me in your thoughts during this challenging time.”2
“The procedure Starr elected to do, however, is fairly new. Approved by the F.D.A. in 2016, Lasik SMILE (or small incision lenticule extraction) is marketed as a less-invasive corrective surgery and is aimed at those with mild nearsightedness. Both Lasik and SMILE reshape the eye’s cornea. During SMILE, two small cuts are made to remove a lenticule (a tiny lens-shaped tissue). Lasik, also a two-step procedure, requires a large flap-like incision which is then repositioned.”3
Her colleagues, deeply saddened and shocked by her death, posted their condolences:
It is with a heavy heart that I post this. Our dear friend and colleague Jessica Starr has died. She leaves behind a husband, two beautiful children and a loving family. I send my deepest sympathies to her family. Our hometown girl will always be remembered fondly. pic.twitter.com/2EjWgG9KZc
— Roop Raj (@rooprajfox2) December 13, 2018
(Please watch the video below; nearly ten years ago, before I had met my better half, Dr. Mercola, I had an appointment scheduled with the doctor to have Lasik done. Thankfully, before I had the surgery I saw an article on his site warning against it and I canceled my surgery!)
However, her death has sparked a long needed discussion about the potential connection between Lasik eye surgery patients and suicide.
It might shock you but the connection between the very popular eye surgery and suicide is not new. In fact, others have been talking about it for years. (Even recently; at the end of November, 54-year-old Ontario resident Paul Fitzpatrick, killed himself after laser eye surgery side effects “ruined his life.”4 Fitzpatrick is believed to have suffered from a rare condition called corneal neuralgia that can cause severe pain, one he lived with for 20 years.)
And in June, “The New York Times reported on documented cases of painful side effects and vision anomalies resulting from laser vision correction surgery. In some cases, the chronic pain and blurred vision experienced by patients after the procedure was so great that it had apparently driven them to suicide.”5 (That report came out just six months before Starr took her own life. We are unsure if she was aware of it.)
- Geobanni Ramirez, a graphic artist who had Lasik done over two years ago, continues to experience extreme light sensitivity, triple vision, visual distortions, and severe dry eye. Ramirez told the NYT that following the procedure, he has to put drops in his eyes twice an hour and oftentimes feels a burning pain he compares to that experienced while chopping onions.
- Kindergarten teacher Katie Enders described her post-Lasik dry eye as comparable to feeling like she has “paper cuts in her eyes.”
No, this issue has been going on for years and the FDA has been relatively quiet on the subject. But these issues people are having are real and they need to be addressed.
Since the FDA approved laser corrective procedures back in the 90s, more than 9.5 million American’s have opted for laser corrective surgery rather than wear glasses or contact lenses. And I get it, glasses can be a real pain. However, some have claimed there was ” corruption in the clinical trials process.”
“The public knows refractive surgery mostly through its marketing. But what if I told you that the clinical trials, supposedly the scientific basis on which claims of safety and efficacy are made, never investigated safety? What if told you that common consequences of refractive surgery, like dry eyes and visual aberrations, were simply classified as side-effects, in order to reduce the adverse event rate to a level the FDA would approve? What if I told that the FDA continues to maintain that refractive surgery is safe, although the clinical trials data shows no evidence to support this?
The clinical trials that launched Lasik were conducted in the mid- to late-1990s. When you review this literature, you see no earnest attempts to quantify the risks of Lasik. Quite the reverse, in fact. Instead, you see industry and regulators playing with definitions in order to make refractive surgery APPEAR safe, apparently so that industry could begin making money. Patients that I’ve met online who are distressed, depressed, or suicidal seem to exhibit three symptoms, either alone or in combination, namely dry eyes, visual aberrations, and less frequently, chronic eye pain. Dry eyes and visual aberrations do not occur at the rate of a few percent in the clinical trials literature. Instead, they occur at rates of between 10 and 20 percent. Patients with whom I have spoken maintain that their surgeons told them that these problems would disappear after six months. The regenerative powers of the human body are truly miraculous, so for some patients, I have no doubt this is true.
But the issue here is not rates. The issue here is what is a lie and what is not. Dry eyes and visual aberrations were not considered adverse events in the clinical trials for Lasik. They were considered side-effects. Contrary to the Hippocratic Oath, their potential as adverse events was never investigated. They were simply declared to be side-effects. Their potential as adverse events was defined out of existence. Many patients I have spoken with experience BOTH, yet their suffering continues to be dismissed, because it is inconvenient for an FDA that has chosen to be dishonest with the public.”6
It seems patients aren’t being told about the very real, serious, and well-documented dangers of these surgeries.
In 2008, dissatisfied Lasik patients begged the FDA for more transparency about the procedure’s risks and long-term side effects “as well as to implement more strict eligibility requirements for interested candidates.”7 And at that time, it was estimated that “‘fewer than 1 percent of patients’ had experienced ‘severe complications’ and ‘poor vision.'”8 However, that seems difficult to believe given that a 2017 study concluded that “short-term symptoms in two clinical trial groups of patients were similar to those of Starr and Ramirez, and that their cases are not all that uncommon.”9 While a large number of patients reportedly improved astigmatism symptoms, still others developed dry eye, seeing double images, glares, halos, and starbursts.
And as referenced above, dry eye, double images, glares, halos, and starbursts don’t seem like potential side-effects…especially given the fact that they can each- on their own- be debilitating. (Can you even imagine someone having them all together?) No, those issues seem more like adverse effects.
At this time, Starr’s Lasik SMILE complications have not been officially confirmed as the cause for her suicide (although her struggle with recovery was well documented on Facebook).
Editor’s note: Most patients after Lasik are given fluoroquinolone such as Ciloxan (ciprofloxacin HC) and some experts think that black box drug may be a BIG part of the problem.
Our hearts go out to Starr’s family and friends. She is survived by her husband, Dan, and her two children, a 5-year-old son named Noah, and a 3-year-old daughter named Riley.
To everyone who lasik has impacted this way. But please know this, if you or someone you know is in need of help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255 or text 741-741) which provides free and confidential emotional support 24/7.
Do not suffer in silence. Do not go through this alone.
- Fox 2 Detroit
- Fox News
- Detroit Metro Times
- NY Daily News
- Detroit Metro Times
- Detroit Metro Times
- Detroit Metro Times
- Detroit Metro Times
- The Wrap