In the Sunday Chicago Tribune, Deborah Shelton has a great article about how the Illinois agency responsible for disciplining doctors is not aggressive enough. The agency in question, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation[IDFPR] oversees a number of professions, including the practice of medicine. The article focused on one doctor in particular – Nicholas Caro, M.D., a Chicagoland ophthalmologist[eye doctor]. The article explained that since the early 1990’s, Caro has been sued nearly 50 times, with 29 of the lawsuits filed in the last decade.
Caro is affiliated the St. George Corrective Vision Center on West Peterson Avenue in Chicago, where he serves as the medical director. Specifically, Caro does Lasik surgery, a cosmetic surgical procedure where a laser is used to change the shape of the cornea, or covering located at the front of the eye. According to the article, Caro has performed 25,000 eye procedures in the last 25 years.
The chief medical prosecutor for the IDFPR, Lisa Stephens, recommended in an original complaint in March, 2008 that Caro’s medical license be suspended, revoked or otherwise disciplined. She further noted that Caro had “…committed acts and/or omissions which constitute gross negligence in the practice of medicine.” The complaint was amended in July and October to include the specifics from additional cases. Yet the IDFPR has yet to take any action against Caro. In fact, no hearing date has been set. Daniel Bluthardt, Director of the Department’s Division of Professional Regulation declined comment, but did note that “It’s not unusual for a case, from start to finish, to take as long as two years to resolve.” That may be. But Caro’s situation might call for a little more urgency. The guy has been sued for malpractice nearly 50 times.
When reached to comment on the article, Caro noted that a lot of doctors get sued, and indicated that other doctors who perform Lasik procedures have similar problems. Shelton checked with the Ophthalmologic Mutual Insurance Company which insures nearly one third of ophthalmologists currently practicing in the United States. She noted that 75% of ophthalmologists who have been practicing 25 years, have been sued – but not with the same frequency as Caro. Of that 75% most have 3 or less malpractice suits against them.
In fact, as noted in the article, Caro’s practice also attracted the attention of the federal government, back in 1997. At that time the Food and Drug Administration[FDA] said his clinic was using unapproved laser equipment in treating certain vision problems. The FDA removed the equipment from the practice. At the time the agency noted that “Such unapproved lasers pose a risk to patients because their use could potentially cause serious eye injury. The manufacturers and eye clinics had ignored prior warnings from FDA.”
The folks at the IDFPR by and large do good work. But there is no excuse for letting this particular case just churn through the system like any other case. Push this case to the front of the line and take whatever action may be appropriate with respect to Dr. Caro.

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