• How to Report a Concern About Your Ophthalmologist

    Dec. 29, 2015

    Members of the American Academy of Ophthalmology must comply with its Code of Ethics. If you believe that your ophthalmologist may have acted unethically, the Academy Ethics Committee can investigate your concerns only if your ophthalmologist is a member of the Academy.

    • The Academy has no authority over non-member ophthalmologists.
    • An Ethics Committee investigation does not affect an ophthalmologist’s license to practice medicine.
    • Federal regulations prohibit the investigation of fee disputes.

    What to Know Before You Report

    • Cost to file a complaint: None.
    • What we can review: The Ethics Committee can investigate matters related to the rules of the Code of Ethics and involving members of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. We cannot investigate fee disputes.
    • Confidentiality: Unless you give written permission to do so, the Ethics Committee cannot share any of the information, records or reports gathered during the course of its investigation or the results of its investigation with anyone other than you and your ophthalmologist.
    • Lawsuits: Federal regulations protect individuals who bring forth complaints “in good faith.” The Academy Ethics Committee cannot assist you in civil litigation against the ophthalmologist for “malpractice.”
    • Prior complaints: Ethics investigations are confidential. Complaint information cannot be disclosed to anyone other than the parties involved. Your state board of medicine may be able to share information about any possible prior complaints from patients.
    • Length of investigation: This depends on the complexity of the complaint, how many individuals are involved and how cooperative they are. The challenged ophthalmologist is guaranteed his/her right to due process.

    How to Report a Concern

    To report a concern that your ophthalmologist may have acted unethically:

    1. Verify that your ophthalmologist is a member of the Academy by searching for him or her in the Find an Eye M.D. database. The search tool only lists Academy members.
    2. Review the Code of Ethics to determine whether the code addresses situations like the one you wish to report (i.e., find an applicable rule of the Code of Ethics that you believe your ophthalmologist may not have followed.)
    3. Complete and sign the Patient and Public Submission Form. The Ethics Committee must have a complete, signed copy of the form to investigate your report. Mail the form to:

      Ethics Committee
      American Academy of Ophthalmology
      655 Beach Street
      San Francisco, CA 94109

    The Ethics Committee does not accept electronic submissions.

    Review Process

    • Once the Ethics Committee receives your compliant on a signed submission form, you will be sent an acknowledgement letter. You will not hear from the Ethics Committee again until it has something substantive to report.
    • Your complaint then undergoes a preliminary review to determine if it pertains to the Code of Ethics.
      • If not, you will be sent a letter closing the review.
      • If yes, and if your complaint concerns medical care and treatment provided by an Academy member ophthalmologist, you will be asked to submit a Patient Record Release Form.
    • Once all the required material is gathered, the Ethics Committee will send a complete copy of your complaint to the ophthalmologist for his/her review and reply.
    • The Ethics Committee will correspond with the parties until the committee believes it has enough information to determine whether there is a potentially valid violation of the code in your complaint.
    • After conducting an investigation, the Ethics Committee may determine that:
      • The complaint has no merit or cannot be investigated under the Code of Ethics. No further action is taken. All parties are notified and the case is closed.
      • The complaint is valid and the investigation indicates a violation of the code. One of the following actions may be taken against the member:
        1. Letter of concern.
        2. Reprimand, public or private.
        3. Suspension from Academy membership.
        4. Termination of Academy membership.

      For additional information about possible sanctions, see Code of Ethics Section C.4(e).