All members must follow the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s Code of Ethics. Only if your ophthalmologist is a member of the Academy can the Academy Ethics Committee evaluate your complaints if you suspect he or she has acted unethically.
● The Academy has no power over ophthalmologists who are not members.
● An ophthalmologist’s license to practice medicine is unaffected by an Ethics Committee probe.
● Fee disputes are not investigated under federal regulations.
What You Should Know Before Filing a Report
● Cost to file a complaint: Zero
● We can look into: The Ethics Committee can look into matters concerning members of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the Code of Ethics rules. They are unable to investigate fee disagreements.
● Confidentiality: The Ethics Committee cannot share any of the information, records, or reports acquired during its investigation, or the outcomes of its inquiry with anyone other than you and your ophthalmologist unless you give written permission.
● Suits: Individuals who file complaints “in good faith” are protected by federal regulations. In a legal lawsuit against the ophthalmologist for “malpractice,” the Academy Ethics Committee cannot help you.
● Prior complaints: Ethics investigations are kept in the strictest confidence. Information about complaints cannot be shared with anyone other than the parties involved. Your state board of medicine may be able to provide information on any previous patient complaints.
● Investigation time frame: This is dependent on the nature of the complaint, the number of people involved, and how cooperative they are. The right to due process is guaranteed to the challenged ophthalmologist.
How to File a Complaint
If you believe your ophthalmologist has acted unethically, you may report your concerns through:
1. Look up your ophthalmologist in the Find an Ophthalmologist database to see if he or she is a member of the Academy. Only Academy members are included in the search function.
2. Look over the Code of Ethics to see if it covers instances similar to the one you are reporting (i.e., find an applicable rule of the Code of Ethics that you believe your ophthalmologist may not have followed.)
3. Fill out the Patient and Public Submission Form and sign it. To investigate your report, the Ethics Committee needs a completed and signed copy of the form. Note that the Ethics Committee does not accept electronic submissions.
Process of Evaluation
An acknowledgment letter will be provided to you once the Ethics Committee receives your complaint on a signed submission form. After that, the Ethics Committee will not contact you again unless it has something relevant to report.
Your complaint is then subjected to a preliminary evaluation to see if it falls under the Code of Ethics.
● If not, you will receive a letter terminating the review.
● If yes, and your complaint involves medical care and eye treatment from an Academy member ophthalmologist, you will be requested to fill out a Patient Record Release Form.
Once the Ethics Committee has received all of the necessary information, it will submit a detailed copy of your complaint to the ophthalmologist for evaluation and response.
The Ethics Committee will communicate with the parties until it deems enough information to assess if your complaint contains a potentially genuine code violation.