Vision correction surgery safety questioned after popular Detroit Meteorologist Jessica Starr dies by suicide

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ByDion Lim via KGO logo
Saturday, December 15, 2018
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A popular TV news meteorologist took her life while recovering from laser vision correction surgery. While it's still too early to say if the complications from the procedure were the reason for this, questions are being raised about the procedure's safety.

SAN FRANCISCO, California -- A popular TV news meteorologist died by suicide this week while recovering from laser vision correction surgery. While it's still too early to say if the surgery complications were the reason, questions are being raised about the procedure's safety.

Nancy Burleson, an OB-GYN in Texas, lost her son Max shortly after he received laser eye surgery called PRK.

"On his 27th birthday, my son lost all hope his school, for his future, his goals were his education," said Burleson. "Everything had been robbed and taking away from him."

TAKE ACTION: What to do if you suspect someone is suicidal

Max was an Army veteran and engineering student who underwent the procedure and soon after could no longer deal with his pain.

"Things started getting very difficult for him," she said. "First he had severe pain, he felt like needles were continuously being poked in his eye. By the time it was four months after the procedure, he became legally blind."

No longer able to go to school, find work or go outside because of the searing pain from even the dimmest light, Max had lost all hope.

"The day after his 27th birthday he went to a state park, put a gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger," said Burleson.

Dr. Jay Bansal, medical director of the LaserVue eye center, has performed more than 25,000 vision correcting procedures and doesn't believe there is a scientific correlation between the surgery and suicide.

"I think suicide is a multi-factor mental health issue," he said. "I don't know if it can be summed up to one cause."

Dr. Bansal says only 1-percent of the 700,000 procedures in America result in major complications. But that surgery isn't for everyone.

"Most important thing is to determine if you're an excellent candidate prior to proceeding with any type of surgery," he said. "I think it's important to do your homework, potentially meet more than one surgeon to find the surgeon that makes you most comfortable and make sure you understand the risks and the potential complications."

In the meantime, Burleson is skeptical of the studies done touting the safety of these procedures. She is heavily involved with the patient advocacy group Lasik Complications, which states there are 18 known suicides from eye surgery complications and an additional 6,000 negatively affected.

She has this message for those considering it, "This is only a temporary procedure but the ramifications can be absolutely devastating. My son would be alive today if the true risks of the procedure were made known."


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