Eye Doctor Under Fire Could Learn Fate As Early As October

Woman Says She Still Can't See Well After LASIK Surgery More Than Two Years Ago

A Colorado eye doctor being investigated by the state could learn the fate of his practice at an October Department of Regulatory Agencies board meeting.

Dr. Paul Cutarelli is under investigation in Colorado after he was punished in Nevada in June for malpractice and "failing to use reasonable care and knowledge."

Since then, 7NEWS has heard from more than a half-dozen LASIK patients in Colorado with similar stories.

Like many with failing eyesight, Jenae Smith turned to LASIK surgery for help.

"They were offering easy financing, no interest," said Smith of her decision to have Cutarelli perform her surgery in February 2008.

Smith was expecting good things when Cutarelli said he would perform the LASIK surgery. But, she said it went bad quickly.

"I was out of work for about 2 1/2 months," said Smith. "I could not see. It was nothing but a blur for me."

Smith said her initial problems led to Cutarelli performing multiple flap lifts to try to correct abnormal cell growth under the flap that would not properly adhere.

"The last time they went in my eyes was absolutely horrible. They lifted the flap, scraped it all and then lasered it," said Smith. "It was like someone had a lighter and was literally holding it to my eyes."

Doctors later discovered Smith has what's called basement membrane defect, which experts agree should have been detected during Smith's pre-screening.

"I mean, everybody else I know that had LASIK, they get to see," said Smith, choking back tears. "Everybody else who gets it done, generally, a couple days later they're OK. And they can see. And I couldn't."

7NEWS tried to contact Cutarelli several times, including making multiple visits to his office. We were told he was busy, and he has never called us back.

Now more than two years post-surgery, Smith still doesn't drive at night and hardly drives at all.

"I can't drive anywhere unless I really know where I'm going because I can't read the (street) signs until I'm on top of them," said Smith.

"What would you say to people who are considering having surgery with Dr. Cutarelli?" asked 7NEWS.

"Don't," said Smith. "Go to a specialist."

Smith paid more than $3,000 for the surgery, and she's still paying for it because she financed it. She now has a new eye doctor whom she says cares. DORA could present its case to the board as early as October.

According to Douglas Cooper, the executive director of the Nevada Board of Medical Examiners, Cutarelli's Nevada license was not suspended.

However, the board did render the following sentence: $30,000 in fines, 100 hours of community service and if he practices again in Nevada he must be supervised for the first 30 days.