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Doctors Behaving Badly: Ophthalmologist should have kept closer eye on patients

Doctors Behaving Badly: Ophthalmologist should have kept closer eye on patients

Picture of William Heisel

Here's something a doctor should hope to never hear after performing surgery:

"Doc, my eye feels like mayonnaise."

That was the assessment of an 81-year-old patient operated on by Dr. Gary W. Hall, a Phoenix ophthalmologist.

The patient had cataracts in both eyes, but her vision in her left eye was worse. For no apparent reason, Hall elected to operate on her right eye first. As the Medical Board of Arizona notes:

It is correct and customary to operate on the worse eye first unless contraindicated. Respondent, however, operated on the right eye-best vision first and failed to indicate in the records any reason justifying this decision.

The operation went badly. The posterior lens capsule ruptured and the lens was knocked loose, floating around inside the eye.

The patient's eye was bleeding and appeared to be leaking fluid, but Hall did not check for a leak, heightening the chances the patient would develop an infection and eventually lose her vision completely. The situation worsened until the patient "reported that her eye felt as if it had mayonnaise in it and was very light sensitive," the medical board wrote.

Other doctors tried to fix the damage done to the patient, identified as M.P. in board records, but Hall neglected to tell them that he'd lost the patient's lens inside her eye.

A lens left in the vitreous may cause later problems including inflammation, hemorrhage, retinal edema, retinal detachment and a variety of visual symptoms. Records from M.P.'s subsequent treatment reveal complaints of just such problems.

This was just one patient. In 2005, the board listed a string of failures on Hall's part in connection with eight other patients, many of whom left Hall's office with worse vision.

Nor was this the first time that Hall had been in trouble.

In January 1996, Hall was ordered by the Arizona Medical Board to spend three years on probation and to pay the board $10,000 to cover the costs of an investigation, the details of which are no longer on the board's site.

Just as that probation was ending, Hall was put on probation again in October 1999, for three more years. He was censured for unprofessional conduct, permanently prohibited from performing certain procedures and forced to take a course to learn others. This time, the penalty was even larger: $15,000.

After losing that lens, damaging other patients' eyes with lasers, performing more surgeries on the wrong eye and discovering a tumor in one patient's eye but failing to tell her about it, Hall seemed to be headed for an early retirement. But the Arizona Medical Board is a magnanimous organization. In April 2005, the board gave Hall yet another chance. He was put on probation for five years, with the caveat that he never perform surgery.

Somewhere along the line, though, he was caught doing just that.

And in February 2009, the board ordered Hall to pay a fine for violating the terms of his discipline. All he had to do was pay that fine, and he could have gone back to seeing patients. He couldn't come up with the money. On October 2009, the board took his license away.

Final question: Where are the case histories? Hall is exactly the kind of doctor who should have a detailed history available on the medical board's site, but for his previous disciplinary actions there are no details. Even the most recent instance of him violating his probation is presented in vague terms. If patients had been able to learn more about him and the limitations of his skills perhaps they would have chosen another doctor.

Comments

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

You asked where are the case histories on Dr. Gary Hall?  I'm one of them.  I had RK surgery by Dr. Hall back in the early 1990s.  This was before Lasix surgery.  My eyes got worse and worse over time and recently when I had cataract surgery, I found that my corneas were so badly scarred, that they were considering corneal transplants on me.  Fortunately, I did not have to go through that, but it was a close call.  When my cataracts were done, my prior scars from the RK surgery popped open and left me needing stitches in both my eyes.  Glad he had his license revoked.  Should have happened sooner.  As my current ophthalmologist says, Gary Hall is a four letter word in the ophthalmology community.

Picture of William Heisel

Thank you for your comment. This is the reason I started writing "Doctors Behaving Badly," because it is so hard to find information about physicians who have strayed outside standard medical practices.

Picture of Antonia Litsinger

"Stray outside standard medical practice," indeed he did.  I had previously been turned down by two other ophthalmologists for RK surgery because of the amount of astymatism I had.  Dr. Hall actively sought people like me who were turned down for various reasons.  He held a seminar of sorts at the law firm where I was employed.  Of course, with my thick glasses, I was very naive and very ripe for the pickings.  I had the maximum amount of cuts over three separate surgeries in each eye.  One of the attorneys in my office also had RK surgery performed by him as a result of that seminar, and although I don't know what kind of complications he had, I know he was very unhappy with his results even very shortly after his RK surgery.  I have since moved to Maryland from Arizona and didn't find out that Dr. Hall was actually barred from practicing medicine until I started doing research for my cataract surgery and then ran into your article.  I actually thought it was all just an unfortunate result that was peculiar to me.  I had no idea that he left other people even worse off than myself.  I know that it's a matter of buyer beware, but as with the other cases you described in your article, I had no idea at that time that I was putting my trust in a man who has since demonstrated that he just didn't care about his patients and was only interested in his bottom line.  Mr. Heisel, thanks for bringing this to light and for giving me an outlet to relate my experience.

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

Is there a way I can contact you about doing a project with me?

Picture of Barbara Feder Ostrov

Readers can contact William Heisel at askantidote@gmail.com.

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

I was one of the shosen by Gary Hall RK , and had such an infection in both eyes I could not see for weeks until he admited he had caused an infection and supplied me with ointment that took a week to heal the scars on my eye lids. Tday I found out because of the RK and the amount of cuts pressure is building in my eyes and I am losing my central vision and have to go to a specialist to see if anything can be done. I must be extremely careful of any impact on my eyes because they (the cornea ) can split open even in a plane. Is there nothing that this man can be held accountable for. I am very depressed over the possibility in the near future. Im 67 and my vision will never be the same. Shame on Mr Hall for telling me RK was ment for me .

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

Not all of Dr Hall's procedures turned out badly. I had the RK procedure done with Dr Hall in 1992. No problems or issues ever! Only recently have begun to need readers ( as he told me I would once I reached a certain age). I still sing his praises and swear it was the best decision I could have made to be able to see ago. My vision before procedure was 20/400....after it was 20/25.

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

I, too, had a good outcome with RK done by Dr. Hall in 1995. I came across this site while looking for Hall's contact info for medical records, as I am just now needing readers. I feel lucky to have enjoyed a successful procedure by him, hoping all is still well going forward.

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

Hi
I'm 53 yrs old. I had rk by Gary hall back in 1996. I am now now unable to see with glasses. I have been doing everything possible no Lasix or lens replacement can improve my eyes because of the Rk. So for all I can do is go blind & live with very painful headaches every day. Now it is effecting my job. Help please.

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

I was having a surgery in 2005 with Gary W. Hall, i need my records, how can i get them?

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

In early 90s my husband Tom went to a seminar and chose to try RK by Gary Hall. His eyesight had never been great and had worn 'coke bottle's glasses for years. At the decision time his eyesight was -10.5. After surgery it eventually settled at -5.5. The healing process was very slow and he couldn't open his eyes for about a week after. I wasn't sure he would see again. Dr Hall called to see how he was doing several months later. At that point Hall seemed surprised that he had actually operated on -10.5 eyesight. Hall was by then beginning to use Lasik and suggested using Lasik on Tom. I said, You've got to be kidding! Tom has had cataract surgery on both eyes and is able to see although not the way he would like. However just within this past six months he has been told by 2 ophthalmologists what a horrible job Hall did with the RK and should have been sued, way to many cuts have left extreme scarring on the cornea. Has anyone ever started a class action against this guy?

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

I am now 16 years out i do need to see a optometrist i was checking to see what has come of him. I did my research and noticed all the horible RK surgeries that went wrong i prayed and prayed before having lasic the lord was there the whole time the worst part was all the paperwork i had to sign saying I would not sue him if something goes wrong. Im still 20/20 thank god im glad the ones that went wrong on finally got justice.

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

I'm 46 had RK when I was approx 25. Had really bad astigmatism. Dr hall assured me he would get me as close to 20/20 as he could which he did, but now I'm paying for it. Both my eyes have extensive scarring damage. Glasses no longer work for me. I'm currently seeing a corneal specialist to see what he can do to help me. I can no longer drive at night and its also affecting my job. Its totally changed my quality of life. He took advantage of the fact that I was young and naive. I trusted him.

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