Page images

optical products industry. The FTC set forth rules relating to deception in general, false advertising, bait advertising, deceptive prices, and other matters. These regulations say this about these readymade glasses or glaze goods:

Rule No. 2. False advertising of nonprescription magnifying glasses: It is an unfair practice for any industry member to publish or cause to be published any advertisement or sales presentation relating to nonprescription magnifying spectacles sometimes referred to as ready made spectacles which represent directly or by implication that spectacles so offered will correct or are capable of correcting defects in vision of persons unless it is clearly and conspicuously disclosed in the advertisement or sales presentation that the correction of defects in vision by such spectacles is limited to persons approximately 40 years of age and older who do not have astigmatism or diseases of the eye, and who require only simple magnifying or reducing lenses, or to publish or cause to be published any advertisement or sales presentation which has a capacity and tendency or effect of deceiving purchasers or prospective purchasers in any other material respect.

The danger involved herein springs from the tendency on the part of many people to self-diagnose their problem. We feel that if a person insists on playing Russian roulette with his vision, he should at least realize the risks he is taking. The mere printing of a sign or ad “not for those folks under 40 or those with astigmatism or eye diseases" does very little to remedy the problem.

Commonsense tells us that few dime-store salesmen will require proof of age before selling a cheap pair of readymade glasses to a person. In fact, I purchased a pair of these glasses in a Washington store last week and I was not asked my age.

I don't understand how a person, regardless of age, would know whether he had astigmatism or disease of the eye. To determine the answers to those questions optometrists spend 6 years in college.

The specious argument that these glasses cannot harm one's vision or that poor people will be deprived of reading glasses is simply

In fact, even aside from the vision problem, some of these glasses represent safety hazards.

The price advertising of ophthalmic materials should be prohibited. There was a time here in the District when socalled dental parlors indulged in price advertising, but that has disappeared as a result of congressional action.

Medicine's disciplinary powers are much greater than ours because they can bar unethical practitioners from eye tests to hospitals, but our profession has no such power. It is necessary therefore to vest the Commissioners of the District of Columbia, acting through the Board of Examiners of Optometry, to enforce the practices which would be prohibited by the passage of H.R. 12937.

I have before me a full-page advertisement placed in the Washington newspaper a few weeks ago by one of our local department stores from which I would like to quote:

Eyesight is your most precious gift. Give your eyes the best of care. Find a big choice of becoming styles in our budget eye-frame bar; $5, $7.50, $10.

Let us show you how attractive glasses can be. We have a big selection *** try on as many as you like *** decide for yourself.

Keep the natural beauty of your eyes with contact lenses. We specialize in contact lenses * * * and that takes know-how that only our long experience can provide. Fitting contact lenses is a science in itself, and our technicians are experts. You are invited to come in for a consultation *** there's no obligation, of course. Our price for contact lenses is $95.

Eyeframe of the month, men's new Gotham frames are light as a letter that takes a 5-cent stamp.


New lightweight frames, equally handsome with tweeds and dinner clothes with a new "uni-fit bridge, hidden hinges, and frames that absorb extraordinary punishment. Black, brown, or grey. Modestly priced, and you may charge them, of course.

(The material referred to follows:)

[blocks in formation]


[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

It's important to have regular ey examinations ... and you can depend on our Optical Center for professional eye care for over 30 years we've been serving Metropolitan Washington, and we're proud of our record. The optometrist in charge has had many years of experience, and he knows what's right for your eyes. Ho'll test your eyes scientifically, and prescribe proper corrective lenses for your vision. Or if you preter, bring us your doctor's prescription ... we'll fill it accurately, and you can choose from our selection of smart frames. We'll make tinted-ons sunglasses to your prescription to protect your eyes from dangerous glare. Also, we can transfer your present lenses to now frames in a matter of minutes. You may charge your purchase, of course, Registered optometrist in attendance.



[ocr errors]


The first time over we've been able to offer Repairs for any make of hearing aid. Bot.
so low price on this fine behind-the-ear teries and cords for most.
hearing aid. It weighs just Yource... yet
it's powerful, suited for many types of heer. No down payment (with established

ing loss. With weather-proof components credit)... months to pay on your flexible
fully coated against humidity. Take advant- Hecht Co. charge account,
age of this special price!
Substantial savings on all our latest hear. Please come in for a hearing lest. No
ing aids ... in stock, ready to take home obligation, of course,
with you.

The Hede ca Hearing Aid Cowler-Downtown

New lightweight frames, equally hondsome with tweeds and dinner clothes. With the new "uni-fit" bridge, hidden hinges, and frames that absorb extraordinary punishment. Black, brown or grey. Modestly priced, and you may charge them, of course.


Mr. HORTON. Could I interrupt to ask a question? Is it your opinion that the present bill eliminates this type of advertising?

Dr. HOFF. The new bill would eliminate this; yes, sir.
Mr. Horton. There is a prohibition in there against advertising?
Dr. HOFF. Against advertising; yes, sir.

Mr. HORTON. But I was concerned with whether or not you felt it would be effective the way it is established in here. But it is your opinion that it would be?

Dr. HOFF. Yes, sir.
Mr. HORTON. Thank you.
Mr. HARSHA. May I interrupt you?
Dr. HoFF. Yes, sir.

Mr. HARSHA. I understood the first gentleman to say that optometry has a code of ethics declaring it unethical to advertise.

Dr. HOFF. Yes, sir.

Mr. HARSHA. Is there any way through that code of ethics you could prohibit the advertiser?

Dr. HOFF. Only the members of our association will subscribe to that code of ethics. There are members who practice optometry who are not members. There are people who are not members of the association, and they do not subscribe to that code of ethics.

Mr. HARSHA. There is no way toDr. HOFF. We have no control. We mentioned that earlier. Mr. HARSHA. To take their license, to suspend their license for advertising?

Dr. HOFF. Not under our present law.

Dr. McCRARY. The membership in our association is strictly voluntary, not compulsory, and usually these fringe operators are outside of the association. The only regulatory power that we have over them is through the Board of Optometry which administers the statute,

Mr. HARSHA. And there is nothing in the statute that prohibits their advertising?

Dr. McCRARY. Not as it presently stands.

Dr. HOFF. There are many more objectionable areas which I am sure members of the subcommittee have seen themselves. The question, Congressman, should ask itself it seems to me as it weighs its responsibilities to protect the health, welfare, and safety of the people of Washington, is: Can a person in need of vision care receive the caliber of care he deserves from these mercantile price-conscious establishments?

Dr. McCrary said this mercantile atmosphere might be all right when buying furniture, but it is not all right when applied to the field of vision care. I would like to point out that we have an optical center in one of our Seventh Street furniture stores, and I understand that the management of that store is presently unhappy with their optometry because he is not producing enough revenue for the store on the basis of the number of square feet his optical center occupies.

With respect to similar establishments, I had planned to exhibit some slides at this point, but in the interest of saving time I think we will pass over that. We have the slides available if the subcommittee would like to view them later.

Unfortunately, it is true that thousands of individuals experiencing visual problems will shop for help at the mercantile unethical estab

lishments about which we have been talking, rather than seek proper vision care from a professional. Many of these people mistakenly feel they must resort to this action because of the costs involved. There is assistance available to financial disadvantaged persons who need vision care.

As professional men and women, optometrists have great concern for people in financial need, and we feel that it is incumbent upon us to provide vision care regardless of a person's ability to pay for those services. The Optometric Center of the National Capital, with local optometrists staffing the clinic, is voluntary, cooperates with 35 different agencies, including the District of Columbia Public Health Department.

Another serious problem which the quickie examiner cannot be expected to recognize is that a child considered to be retarded might only be handicapped by a vision problem, which gives a child the appearance of being awkward. An article in the March 1966 issue of Reader's Digest reflects that of the Nation's 6 million retarded, probably more than 1 million have been misdiagnosed. A number are retarded by vision problems. They are not mentally retarded.

Can we expect patients with these types of problems to receive the care and attention they need from jewelry stores and furniture stores and other high-powered, sales-oriented commercial establishments, where the owners worry about how much income a square foot of space produces, and how profits can be increased by handling eyeglass and contact lens customers as quickly as possible?

These untrained, unlicensed, unprofessional vision purveyors are operating today and every day in the District of Columbia, taking advantage of a trusting public. We urge you and your colleagues in the Congress of the United States to pass H.R. 12937 and eradicate these abuses from the Nation's Capital, and afford the people the protection they need and deserve. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for affording me the opportunities to present our views.

(The complete statement of Henry J. Hoff, 0.D., follows:)


THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, my name is Henry J. Hoff. Í am engaged in the practice of optometry in the District of Columbia and am currently serving my second term as president of the Optometric Society of the District of Columbia, which supports passage of the District of Columbia Optometry Act. I graduated from the School of Optometry of Columbia University and have been admitted to practice by passing the State board examinations in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. I have been a member of the American Optometric Association since 1932. My military service was in the Navy. I enlisted in 1942, was commissioned an ensign in 1946 and was a lieutenant junior grade in the Naval Reserve when I retired from the service.

On behalf of my fellow optometrists in Washington, I want to express our gratitude to this subcommittee for considering this extremely important legislation for the protection of the public. In support of this statement I would like to quote a brief paragraph from a lecture delivered by Ward Halstead, Ph. D., member of the faculty of the University of Chicago. The lecture was delivered during the annual Reading Conference of the University of Rhode Island last July:

"Clear and efficient vision is one of the highest functions of the human brain. Part of what we, in psychology, have in the past attributed to the individual differences in native endowment of intelligence is probably due to the distortions of the outer world impressed upon the brain, and hence on the mind, through neglect of vision or improper correction of visual problems. It is probably no accident that the English language uses the term 'I see' to mean 'I understand.' Let us all make certain *** that the eye, as the great window of the mind, is properly cared for at all professional levels.

The present law which regulates the practice of optometry in the District of Columbia was enacted in 1924. It remains unchanged after more than 40 years while optometry laws in all of the States have been revised and updated to keep pace with the changing requirements and needs of the people, as well as the growth of the profession. As a result, our District of Columbia licensing law is hopelessly antiquated.

In regulating the practice of optometry in the District of Columbia, Congress is dealing with the vital interests of public health and safety and with a profession which is entrusted with the responsibility for protecting and enhancing the precious gift of sight. The standards of conduct for such a profession obviously must be different from those which are traditional in the marketplace where the rule of caveat emptor prevails among traders in commodities. We are not only coneerned with providing safeguards against fraud, ignorance, incompetence, and deception, but also against practices which would tend to demoralize the profession by forcing its practitioners into a commercial rivalry which would increase the opportunities of the least scrupulous and penalize the most ethical.

At this point, I would like to quote from S. Howard Bartley of the Department of Psychology of Michigan State College who defines a professional as follows:

“A group of persons recognized and protected by law and public opinion as the only ones qualified to serve the public in certain specified ways, because of (1) the seriousness of the services to the public, (2) the adequacy of the training and education received by the members of the group, and (3) the group's guarantee to safeguard the public by certain standards of licensure and a body of ethics.

“From this, it may be seen, that six basic factors are involved in a profession, namely: (1) definition of the service area; (2) the implied uniqueness of the services within the area; (3) the seriousness to the public of the area covered by the service; (4) the need for special preparation by those rendering the services; (5) recognition, regard, and protection of the group by the public through its laws; and (6) the protection of the public by the group through its acceptance of responsibility.”

As professionals, members of the American Optometric Association are bound by its policy to make no profit on material supplied in connection with their services. They are instructed to pass on to their patients their exact laboratory and material costs and charge only for their time, knowledge, and skill.

Dr. McCrary discussed the problem of unlicensed, untrained laymen fitting contact lenses. Germane to this point, I would like to call the subcommittee's attention to an article which appeared in the Washington Daily News on February 17, 1966, entitled “How

Our Girl Reporter Acted as a Decoy To Help District of Columbia Police Make Two Arrests,” which was written by Mrs. Clare Crawford. Because of the importance of this article, I request permission to have it inserted in the record at this point. [Exhibit 1.) I would also like to offer clippings of stories on the same matter which appeared in the Washington Star on February 16 and the Washington Post on February 17. (Exhibits 2 and 3.] It will be noted that in one of these articles a spokesman for the optometric board is quoted as saying that hundreds of similar complaints have been filed in the past 2 years, but complainants had never agreed to appear in court before.

On February 18, 1966, the Washington Daily News published an editorial which read as follows:

“THOSE CONTACT LENSES “There has been growing official concern here, shared by the Washington Daily News, that the District's optometry law does not adequately guard the public in the delicate area of contact-lens fitting.

"Evidence had been mounting in recent months that many lens buyers were not getting the kind of professional service and care that these lenses seem to require.

"In response to numerous complaints, the District Optometry Board, the Corporation Counsel's Office, and District police jointly undertook an investigation.

"First, they had a look at the law-and they were dismayed. The optometry law had been enacted in 1924, when contact lenses were all but unheard of. It stated that only a licensed optometrist, or an ophthalmologist, a physician, could examine the eyes for eyeglasses. It didn't mention contact lenses. In 1946, the Corporation Counsel, noting this fact, had written an opinoin that the fitting

« PreviousContinue »