I Can See For Miles…


…and more cheaply, too, thanks to a sure-to-pass bill requiring eye doctors to give patients a copy of their contact lens prescriptions (a 1978 law required the docs to give patients copies of the eyeglass 'scripts.)

Thus one more vestige of medical paternalism bites the dust (the Rubicon will have been truly crossed when the prescription drug regime is finally dismantled).

From the SF Chron account:

For years, optometrists and ophthalmologists blocked [the law's motive force, California Democratic Rep. Pete] Stark's legislation, saying they feared patients would use outdated or fake prescriptions to buy lenses, possibly leading to damage of their eyes. But consumer groups said the spread of disposable lenses and of a profusion of places, including Web sites, to buy them means wearers are being cheated if they can buy lenses only from their doctors.

If there's now thousands of people going blind from really-off contacts, we know who to blame.

Kudos to Stark but I should mention that, in my two decades of wearing contacts–in NJ, NY, PA, CA, TX, and OH–I always received a contact lense prescription whenever I asked for one.

Stark's wife had a different experience, thus starting his campaign:

The Fremont Democrat first proposed his legislation in 1995 after his wife, Deborah, went to an optometrist in Washington for a new contact lens prescription and was told she couldn't get a copy to take back with her to California if she needed replacement lenses there.

"I was not only incredulous. I was mildly upset," Stark said on the House floor Wednesday during a brief debate on the bill, which passed 406-12.

Quick passage in the Senate and a White House sign-off are expected.

NEXT: Forget These

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  1. I live in California and this happened to me a few times.

    Buying contacts from Canada over the internet changed that.

  2. I live in California and this happened to me a few times.

    Buying contacts from Canada over the internet changed that. You don’t need a prescription.

  3. Time for a new prescription, Dave.

  4. I’ve been getting contacts from the same guy for years. One day I saw his receptionist without her smock. She’s married and looks a bit like a Hispanic Janeane Garofalo, only a bit larger. Plus, they only charge me $23 for three pairs of Accuvues. By the way, did I mention her rack?

  5. I’m having trouble parsing this. Are you saying that a new law regulating the doctor-patient relationship is a decrease in medical paternalism?

  6. Ohio makes it illegal to fill a prescription older than 2 years. You might like your glasses buy the state says you have to pay an eye doctor more if you want spare glasses.

  7. Gary,

    In very rare cases, which typically include professionals who actually have the goods to back up their pronouncements, Reason recognizes that freedom can be infringed upon by parties other than the government.

  8. “I always received a contact lense prescription whenever I asked for one.” Me too. And, like any other prescription I’ve been given, these had expiration dates.

  9. My contact lens box I got from the eye doctor has the prescription on little stickers on them. I went to a website, put the numbers in when they asked, picked the same brand, and got the contact lenses without ever asking for a copy of my prescription.

  10. Government imposed the prescription law, so a change in the regulation that makes us less dependent on the professionals empowered by that prescription law is arguably a sort of deregulation.

  11. What do we pay for when visiting a doctor, eye or otherwise? Is it information about our physical condition, recommendations about how to improve that condition, or the end result, a better-functioning body?

    If all we pay for, or all we can be trusted with is that end result, then the docs must keep secrets or risk that we’ll foolishly mix dangerous potions. I prefer more knowledge, and generally better information leads to better choices. My prescription is a shorthand description of the shape of my eyeballs. I bought that information, along with some advice about how to correct the defects represented. What I do with that information, whether buying contacts on the internet, or sticking lifesavers in my eyes, is my choice and my responsibility.

    This bill is a change in regulation, which although still a regulation, shifts some power toward individuals away from a state-granted monopoly.

  12. What kind of idiot bureaucrats came up with the idea of prescriptions for glasses, anyway? I understand the concept of prescription medicines — I generally disagree with it, but I understand it. But what on earth is the justification for requiring a prescription for glasses?

  13. But what on earth is the justification for requiring a prescription for glasses?

    “The idiot commoners will ruin their eyes!”

  14. I’ve hopelessly watched my eyes getting worse and worse over the years (myopia), and none of the opticians and ophtamologists that I saw could give me an answer why. After much research I’ve determined that all of it is just a big scam and self-prescription seems to me the only way I can steer my eyes in the right direction. There’s a number of books written on the subject . . .

  15. One good thing about voting for the Libertarian is that the Republicans get really pissed if they lose the election.
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