LASIK Gone Wrong

What happened to Keith Wills

When EYES, Windows To The Soul, are broken

By Jo Wills

My husband, Keith R. Wills went to Dr. Herbert Nevyas of Bala Cynwyd, PA, for an evaluation to determine if he was a candidate for LASIK surgery on July 26, 1997. Dr. Robert Levy of Burlington, NJ, recommended Dr. Nevyas, a doctor that was performing LASIK in the area, evaluate Keith for LASIK surgery.

LASIK surgery was scheduled to be performed on my husband’s first eye on August 28, 1997, and the second was scheduled for September 11, 1997. Dr. Nevyas and Dr. Sterling were both present when Keith and I discussed his need to see in detail since he was an amateur astronomer and worked with small parts and wires in computers. Keith discussed his new purchase of a telescope and how his job duties required clear vision. He was told that his vision would be “crystal clear”. Dr. Nevyas even patted my husband on the back and speaking to me said we’ll “take care of this big guy”. Dr. Nevyas followed up with a letter dated July 26, 1997 to Dr. Robert Levy; stating that Keith was an “excellent candidate for LASIK surgery.”

Dr. Nevyas did not inform us that he was using laser that did not have FDA approval. None of the information that he provided prior to the day of the surgery indicated that my husband was going to be a “guinea pig” for the Doctor’s own financial advancement. Apparently he wanted his invention approved by the FDA and then he could market the device as he had done with his other inventions.

One day we got a call and a representative from the doctors office told us that the surgery was going to be delayed because the FDA “had to approve” Keith’s surgery since he had a high degree of myopia. The first surgery was initially scheduled for August 8, 1997 and was pushed back to October 7, 1997. When he was informed that the delay continued, Keith became extremely concerned and had a “gut” feeling that the delays were an indication that he shouldn’t have the surgery. He was concerned about the possible problems that could result from this surgery so he told them he was canceling the surgery. Dr. Nevyas was so concerned over Keith canceling his surgery that he called and went over Keith’s concerns at length. He told my husband that since he was an “excellent candidate” and he had virtually no chance of having any of the problems that he was concerned over. The doctor was aggressive in his attempt to “save” his business and assured my husband that he was not going to have complications so that he would agree to continue with the scheduled surgery. Before the doctor would perform any surgery, we had to submit $5,000.

On the day of surgery, my husband was picked up at our home by a van that was provided by one of Doctor Nevyas’ holdings, The Delaware Valley Laser Institute. The doctor now had a captive audience.

Dr. Nevyas had told Keith that he was not to be concerned about the adverse conditions listed in the “Informed Consent” document that the doctor had Keith sign. [How can a patient have informed consent when a doctor makes verbal representations that differ from the document that he requires his patient to sign before he will perform surgery?]

On October 7, 1997, my husband was seated in the operatory chair and the laser was set in front of him. He was told to look at the red light in the laser, but he told Dr. Nevyas that he could not see the red light. There was some whispering but Keith could not determine what was being said and then the Dr. Nevyas asked him if he could see the red light again and Keith responded “no”. Then Dr. Nevyas told Keith to look straight ahead and not move his eyes. He told the doctor that he couldn’t see so he wasn’t sure if he was looking straight ahead. Dr. Nevyas proceeded with the surgery anyway. AN ADVERSE EVENT!

The same happened during the surgery on his other eye on October 9, 1997. He again could not see the red light but Dr. Nevyas performed the LASIK any way. ANOTHER ADVERSE EVENT!

When the LASIK surgery did not turn out as was expected and Keith was not able to see clearly, Dr. Nevyas performed additional procedures to correct the problems that were created by the LASIK surgery. Each succeeding surgery was called an “enhancement” where the doctor told Keith he would “fine tune” his sight. Enhancements created new problems. When my husband would ask at each visit why he was not seeing any better, Dr. Nevyas would tell Keith to “be patient, it takes time”. The doctor would see Keith at specific intervals, having him wait until each procedure healed.

When another doctor told Keith that his eyes would not get better, and that there was virtually no cornea left to correct, Keith sought the advice of an attorney. A lawsuit was filed in Philadelphia, PA. We were told that the doctor’s malpractice insurance company was bankrupt and that the State’s insurance fund would cover the liability up to a certain limit. If we did get a settlement, no matter how high, it was limited by the State fund’s maximum coverage.

We got our day in court in December 2003, the trial started off with Dr. Levy, Keith’s treating eye doctor testifying against Dr. Nevyas. Dr. Kenyon, an expert witness, from Boston, MA, followed explaining that Keith was injured by the LASIK surgery. Both Keith and I testified. Dr. Nevyas’ expert witness testified at night and the video taped testimony was presented to the jurors the next day. The main point that I got from his testimony was that even Dr. Nevyas’ own defense expert did not agree with Dr. Nevyas and that this expert was confused on pertinent matters.

Then it was Dr. Nevyas turn to defend himself, and he testified that he didn’t have to report my husband's failed surgery as an adverse event. His reasoning was that he had to perform additional surgery on Keith to correct his eyes so he took Keith off the “investigational device study” and did not report his adverse events. He didn’t report Keith’s surgery to the FDA at all.

The purpose of the FDA “investigational device study” is to see if the FDA should approve the equipment for use. He should have noted on the report that Keith, a patient entered into the study had an adverse event and required further surgery which would preclude him from being reported in follow up reports for the study. Keith should not have been dropped off the report, which hid the fact that there was a problem with the laser. The FDA does require that all “adverse events” be reported, not excluded/covered up as had happened in this matter. [I wonder how many other adverse events weren’t reported because Dr. Nevyas had his “own” interpretation of the study requirements.]

I made numerous contacts with the FDA regarding this matter, but have been unable to get anything from them. The FDA has stated that it has previously investigated the Nevyas Laser and will not investigate unless new information is presented. I informed the FDA that we have new information that they did not have previously, the failure of the doctor to include “Adverse Events” on my husband and why. I am disturbed that an agency that is supposed to protect the public from injury by medical equipment, will not address our concerns.

Keith was not able to see the red light in the laser. He was not a candidate for the surgery. He did not give his informed consent.

The FDA requires many documents to be signed before a doctor can enter into an “investigational study” and use equipment that has not been FDA approved. The documents I have seen do not have the required signatures, but the Doctor continued to use his invention, refusing to sign a document that was to be part of an agreement. The FDA should have reviewed Dr.’s files, reports and agreements to determine if he was following the rules, regulations and laws set forth to protect the public.

Since my husband’s surgeries were never reported as adverse events, Dr. Nevyas failed to report as required by law and his agreement, which included parts that he refused to sign. He covered up the problems of his laser by reporting to the FDA that there were NO ADVERSE events on all his reports to them.

Documents that Dr. Nevyas filed the following year indicated that he made a change from the red light in his laser to a green light; he didn’t just make this modification without a reason. The red light was difficult for some patients to see so he made a modification to his laser, my husband was one of those people and now his eyes are permanently damaged.

Is there a pattern here? Dr. Nevyas lied to my husband about “informed consent issues” to convince him to have the surgery. When the Doctor submitted reports to the FDA that omitted required information, he covered up a severe disabling event. It doesn’t even stop here, in Civil Court, Dr. Nevyas lied under oath about the fact that he was not required to report my husband as an adverse event to the FDA. Lies, Lies, Lies.

Just one month before our trial, a Louisiana doctor was found guilty of violations of the same federal laws. The FDA publication, P03-92, dated November 5, 2003 states that a Louisiana Doctor was violating federal laws related to the conduct of clinical studies. FDA Commissioner Mark B. McClellan, M.D., Ph.D. made this statement: “This penalty sends a clear message that FDA will not tolerate conduct that can put patients at risk and erode the trust between research subjects and the medical research community.” For example, studies of high risk devices such as ophthalmic lasers must be conducted according to an investigational plan reviewed and approved by FDA and an investigator must obtain informed consent from each participant. In addition, the device cannot be used on patients before the study begins. The Louisiana Doctor’s violations are listed below and almost mirror what happened to my husband when he went to Dr. Nevyas.

· Used an unapproved laser on patients before the study began;
· Treated more subjects than allowed under the study plan that was approved by FDA;
· Ignored parameters of the study by treating nearsightedness beyond the permitted range and by treating astigmatism and both eyes of some patients;
· Failed to submit complete, accurate, and timely reports to FDA about the ongoing study; and
· Misrepresented that he was using an FDA-approved laser to treat patients when, in fact, the procedures were performed with an unapproved, experimental laser.

The Nevyas Excimer Laser’s ablation [removal of tissue from the body by surgical or other means] zone was 5 mm, and my husband pupils were 6.25 mm, which is considered relatively large. Using a laser on a patient with pupils larger than the laser’s ablation zone was known to cause the same problems that my husband suffers from. Clearly Dr. Nevyas should have informed my husband that this almost guaranteed that he would have an adverse result. Due to the fact that Keith had large pupils, Dr. Nevyas should never have considered Keith a candidate for LASIK let alone report that he was an “EXCELLENT CANDIDATE” as in the letter to Dr. Levy.

Dr. Nevyas did not perform the Pachemetry test, it has been indicated by experts that this test would have shown that my husband was not a candidate. My husband’s cornea is now too thin to perform further corrections to his eyes.

On 7/21//97, we visited a website “QuackWatch”, where Dr. Herbert J. Nevyas, MD, authored a page on Refractive Surgery. It stated: “Laser-in-situ keratomileusis (LASIK): The first corneal flap is made as in
ALK, and an extremely precise underlying cut is made with an Excimer Laser. LASIK techniques can be used to correct astigmatism and farsightedness as well as myopia. The results are nearly always predictable, there is no postoperative discomfort, and glare is uncommon. The operation is preferred by eye surgeons throughout the world who have sufficient experience and have access to the necessary equipment. Several eye-surgery centers in the United States have FDA approval to perform LASIK, and some individual ophthalmologists have acquired unapproved but high-quality devices through foreign channels.”

“About the Author:
Dr. Nevyas, who specializes in refractive surgery, is Clinical Professor of Ophthalmology at the Medical College of Pennsylvania. His main office and ambulatory surgical center is located in the Philadelphia area at Two Bala Plaza, Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004. Telephone: (610) 668-2777.”

Only recently when I searched the “QuackWatch” website I discovered it is operated by Dr. Stephen Barrett who married Judith Nevyas and they live in a suburb outside of Philadelphia. When the above article was published on the website, it appeared to be an official site endorsing Dr. Nevyas by allowing him to publish with them since they had investigated Dr. Nevyas as an authority on the matter. It appears that I was misled and this was only a “health promotional” site for a family member.

On 2/13/2003 that same website included a revision dated 4/24/1999, which included an expanded list of complications. [This may have been a result of lawsuits filed against Dr. Nevyas and his associates.]

I would like to know why we were not protected against this doctor and why the FDA failed us in this matter. We tried to obtain copies of the official documents to use in our medical malpractice lawsuit, but the FDA, stated they were confidential and they would not be released.

Those documents could have been presented to the jury showing that this was not an approved laser, and that the doctor had even misled the government by providing inaccurate reports, documents and representations.

After the civil court trial was over, jury members stated that if they had known this information it would have changed their decision. The documents were requested from the doctor but he refused to present them in court. They were requested as part of the pre-trial discovery, but not submitted by either the doctor or the FDA. Just prior to the doctor’s testimony, my attorney informed his attorney to bring the documents to court but they were never provided.

I have contacted numerous local agencies; the Attorney General’s of NJ and PA, the Court System, even the local authorities. Each has told me that the FDA is the agency responsible in this matter. The FDA claims no responsibility; they oversee equipment, not the doctor’s use or practice.

We are a family of 4, two teenage girls who have not been able to spend time with their daddy doing things they enjoy. I have a husband that is no longer the man I married, he cannot enjoy his hobbies and interests and it interferes with the way my husband performs his job duties. I am concerned that we have had to radically change our way of life, not because of an accident, or the aging process, but because someone willfully misled my husband changing the way we all live.

After seeing what happened to Martha Stewart for lying to investigators, I cannot understand why this doctor gets away with his actions, ones that caused actual physical pain and permanent disability to other human beings.

Any assistance in helping us understand why the “system” failed us along with any recommendations as to a direction we may take would be appreciated.


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joewills@comcast.net

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