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Cover Focus | Nov/Dec '20

Operating on a Loved One

"Would you advise against performing ocular surgery on a relative or a close friend?"




Cathleen McCabe, MD

It is quite common for relatives and close friends (or even peripheral acquaintances) to ask questions about their eye health in informal situations or formally as a patient. The first consideration is to question how comfortable you are taking care of the patient’s eye health clinically over the long term. This is important to consider before performing surgery because, once a procedure is performed, you will often be the person that individual goes to as a resource, even if there is another provider involved in their postoperative or clinical care.

In my own experience, I have performed cataract surgery on my in-laws and several good friends, and I have performed refractive surgery on my brother, sister-in-law, mother-in-law, two of my children, and many friends. My father and brother have had glaucoma procedures as well. In my opinion, it is up to the individual physician to judge their own level of comfort performing the needed surgical procedure. If it is within the skill set of the ophthalmologist and they feel that they are able to compartmentalize any additional mental stress as a result of their relationship with the patient, then it is acceptable to perform surgery on these patients.

For myself, I wanted to feel in control of all the details of the surgeries my loved ones needed that fell within my skill set and area of expertise. In my practice, it has given new meaning to my devotion to treating all patients the same as I would my family.

Cathleen McCabe, MD
  • Cataract and refractive surgery specialist, The Eye Associates in Bradenton and Sarasota, Florida
  • cmccabe@hotmail.com; Twitter @cathyeye
  • Financial disclosure: None
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Nov/Dec '20