Patient Safety at Risk: Safe Surgery Arkansas Seeking Signatures to End Optometry Eye Surgery Act

Safe Surgery Arkansas, a coalition of medical doctors with years of extensive surgical training, announced the formation of a ballot question committee to coordinate a statewide referendum challenging Act 579 of 2019.  The coalition includes members from the Arkansas Ophthalmological Society and the Arkansas Medical Society.

To suspend the law and refer the measure to voters, Safe Surgery Arkansas must obtain approximately 54,000 signatures of registered voters by July 23. Canvassers are already getting signatures all around the state, including the following locations, Monday through Friday:

On the weekends, you can find them at the Heights Farmers Market, Fayetteville Farmers Market, the River Market, and a few other select locations.  If you wish to sign the petition, you will need to be a registered voter.  If you are not registered to vote, you must do so right away, as registration can only be done by completing a paper form.  This form can be printed out from this link, can be mailed in, or can be taken to your local county clerk.  (Click here to learn more about the voter registration process).

Act 579, one of the more controversial pieces of legislation of the 2019 legislative session, allows optometrists, who are non-medical doctors without surgical residencies, to use scalpels and lasers to perform eye surgery on Arkansans.  The Arkansas Constitution gives the people of Arkansas the right to refer to voters any act of the Legislature. Safe Surgery Arkansas is seeking the required number of signatures to get the measure on the November 2020 general election ballot. Pursuant to the Arkansas Constitution, Act 579 would be temporarily suspended until the people vote.

A survey commissioned by the Arkansas Medical Society earlier this year found that 65 percent of Arkansans opposed allowing optometrists to perform surgeries with lasers and scalpels. Ophthalmologists are medical doctors who must have four years of medical school, a one-year hospital internship and three-year surgical residencies. Optometrists are not medical doctors and instead complete a four-year program to study eye care, including fitting glasses and contact lenses.

“Every day the people of Arkansas rely on medical doctors who have the experience and training to perform medical procedures to ensure that they are getting world class healthcare in Arkansas.  We are confident that when the people are heard on this issue, they will not allow individuals without medical degrees and without surgical residencies to jeopardize the precious eyesight of Arkansans,” said R. Scott Lowery, M.D., President of the Arkansas Ophthalmological Society.

If you would like to contribute to the referendum efforts of Safe Surgery Arkansas, visit, or you can send a check made payable to Safe Surgery Arkansas at PO Box 55088, Little Rock, Arkansas, 72215.