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Media links Lasik complications with 11 suicides

US ophthalmologists are attempting to quell fears after a series of media reports linked laser eye surgery complications with the self-inflected death of a prominent TV weather presenter and several other patients.

Multiple international media reports have emerged naming prominent Michigan TV meteorologist Ms Jessica Starr as the 11th reported person to commit suicide due to ongoing problems following laser eye surgery.

In the weeks before taking her life, the mother-of-two posted a video telling her Fox 2 Detroit viewers she was still having visual issues – stemming from dry eyes – one month on from the Lasik SMILE procedure, and was told a full recovery could take up to three months. She returned to work for one day, before taking more time off.

Although there was no confirmation the surgery played a role, Ms Paula Cofer, the founder of a support group that educates patients about the risks of the surgery, said she knew of at least 10 other North American cases of people taking their lives due to chronic pain from laser surgery.

Starr’s death and Cofer’s comments sparked an international media frenzy, prompting several US ophthalmologists to defend the procedure, while attempting to add context to the debate.

Dr Douglas Lazzaro, an ophthalmologist at NYU Langone Health, told the New York Post: “In my experience over two decades doing this surgery, it’s very rare that patients have pain postoperatively unless there is a complication.”

He said the complication rate was “less than 1% – and most of the time, it’s just related to someone who has severely dry eyes”.

Lazzaro said in a 2016 review of studies published between 2008 and 2015 measuring patient satisfaction, only 1.2% of those with the surgery weren’t happy with the outcome.

Meanwhile, The New York Daily News reported that the statistics show that Starr’s problems put her in the minority.

“The Journal of Cataract and Refractive Surgery reports that 96% of patients are satisfied with the outcome of their LASIK surgery – and more than 9.5 million Americans have had the surgery, including stars like Tiger Woods, Courteney Cox and Brad Pitt.”

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