Children's author awarded 250,000 after botched laser eye surgery left her with blurred visionJan Fearnley, 47, went to private clinic to cure her short-sightednessEnded up permanently scarred when surgeon 'fumbled' with equipment
Ophthalmologist responsible found guilty of professional misconductWriter awarded compensation after settling with doctor's insurers
13:18 GMT, 8 July 2012
A children’s author and illustrator has been awarded 250,000 in compensation seven years after botched laser eye surgery left her with blurred vision.
Jan Fearnley, 47, who was shortlisted for a Blue Peter Award for her book Mr Wolf’s Pancakes, went to a private eye clinic to cure her short-sightedness but ended up permanently scarred.
In 2007, Dr Haralabos Eleftheriadis, the ophthalmologist who carried out the routine operation, was found guilty of professional misconduct but Mrs Fearnley had to spend a further five years fighting for compensation.
'Nearly destroyed her': Children's author Jan Fearnley (left) has been awarded 250,000 in compensation after a botched laser eye operation by Dr Haralabos Eleftheriadis (right) left her with blurred vision
Yesterday, she said she would return the money ‘in an instant’ if she could reverse years of suffering that ‘nearly destroyed’ her.
Mrs Fearnley, who had the procedure at the Ultralase Clinic in Guildford, Surrey, in April 2005, said: ‘The scarring on my eye is something I am aware of every waking hour of every day. Every conscious moment, I am staring through a scar. I wish I could have just one day when I don’t have to worry about my eyes.’
She added: ‘I dread the winter months with the reduced daylight hours. Whenever my eye is tired or particularly blurry, I wonder, “Is this it Am I going blind” ’
The Lasik procedure is designed to permanently change the shape of the cornea – the clear covering at the front of the eye.
To prepare the eye, very high pressures are applied via a suction ring. A cutting instrument is then used to make a flap in the cornea, before laser energy is applied to remove corneal tissue.
Mrs Fearnley told the General Medical Council in 2007 that Dr Eleftheriadis, of Northwood, North-West London, ‘fumbled’ with the laser equipment before removing it from her eye. He then apologised and said that he could not continue.
Highly regarded: Mrs Fearnley's book Mr Wolf's Pancakes was short-listed for a Blue Peter Award
Mrs Fearnley told The Mail on Sunday that Dr Eleftheriadis denied anything was wrong when she questioned her impaired vision. ‘He knew full well I had irreversible scarring and that was the reason my vision was poor, but he chose to lie,’ she said.
The GMC ruled Dr Eleftheriadis’s actions were ‘inappropriate, unprofessional and not in Mrs Fearnley’s best interests’. He had incorrectly tried to achieve suction on her left eye more than once, which resulted in a tear to her cornea. However, the GMC did not suspend his registration as a doctor after he agreed to training and supervision.
Mrs Fearnley had two operations to correct the damage but still has blurred vision and sees double lines when she reads. In a settlement with Dr Eleftheriadis’s insurers, the author has now been awarded 250,000.
Mrs Fearnley said that the compensation represented five years’ earnings and that it meant she no longer had to worry about losing her home.
She continued: ‘I would return it in an instant were I able to return to the day before my surgery was botched. Creating picture books for children is my life.
'When my eye was ruined, I was determined not to stop working, no matter how difficult and uncomfortable the injury made things.’
She explained that she had improvised by working at a much larger scale and experimenting with collage in her works.
Mrs Fearnley added: ‘Working this way also helped me to restore my shattered confidence, which was crucial because following the botched operation, every time I questioned my impaired vision, the surgeon told me that I was “mistaken” and that I was “imagining it”.
‘To have someone in a position of trust and power abuse that position in that way is despicable. It made me question the very things I was seeing, which is catastrophic for an illustrator. It nearly destroyed me.’
Her lawyer, Geoff Simpson-Scott, of Colemans-ctts, added: ‘Mrs Fearnley felt incredibly let down by the way her complaint was handled. She felt ignored and abandoned. Her only recourse was to bring a compensation claim. The amount fairly represents the significant effects of her injury on her life. However, it can never restore her damaged eyesight.’
Dr Eleftheriadis’s solicitors declined to discuss the case.
A spokesman for Ultralase said: ‘We are aware that Mrs Fearnley has been engaged in a civil action with Mr Eleftheriadis but as we were removed from legal proceedings in 2009 we do not have any detail upon which to provide further comment.
‘Duty and quality of care will always remain our key priorities and we sincerely empathise with Mrs Fearnley’s situation.’