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The passage of this bill would certainly handicap the consumers in the District of Columbia by requiring them to visit a licensed optometrist and pay a professional fee for an ordinary pair of sunglasses which have not proved harmful to the consumer in the past. This would create a burdensome expense and inconvenience to the District of Columbia consumer which I feel is not the intent of this bill.
We are distributors in this area of sunglasses manufactured by many of the largest and most reputable manufacturers in the country. Your consideration of the above-mentioned viewpoints is kindly requested. Sincerely,
David I. Estrin, President. Mr. Sisk. I also have a statement of Mr. Douglas Anello, general counsel of the National Association of Broadcasters, on this bill.
(The statement referred to follows:)
STATEMENT OF Douglas A. ANELLO, GENERAL COUNSEL, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION
OF BROADCASTERS This statement is presented by Douglas A. Anello, general counsel of the National Association of Broadcasters. The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) is a nonprofit organization of radio and television broadcasters whose membership included as of March 9, 1966, 2,201 standard broadcast stations, 980 FM broadcast stations, 478 television stations, and all the radio and television nationwide networks. This statement is submitted by NAB in furtherance of the objective of the association which, in accordance with its bylaws:
** * * shall be to foster and promote the development of the arts of aural and visual broadcasting in all its forms to protect its members in every lawful and proper manner from injustices and unjust exactions; to do all things necessary and proper to encourage and promote customs and practices which will strengthen and maintain the broadcasting industry to the end that it may best serve the public.”
The NAB has traditionally sought to prevent regulation of free enterprise endeavors where it was not shown that there were countervaling public-interest considerations which required the regulation.
While the VAB takes no position with respect to the bill in general, it is in opposition to the inclusion of section 7(a)(8) therein. It is the NAB's position that legislation is unnecessary in the area of advertising of optometric services for the following basic reasons:
The question of advertising in other professional services has been considered a matter of self-regulation. Many associations of professional people requiring equally high standards of ethics as those of the optometrists have established codes which outline the minimum professional standards which should be maintained by their members. The American Medical Association and the American Bar Association have, through the use of such codes, obviated the necessity of Federal, State, or local regulation.
The American Optometric Association, the national organization representing the profession of optometry, also has a code of ethics which is required to be adhered to by each member. Article III-C of a supplement to that code spells out in great detail those advertising practices which the AOA deems to be unethical and to constitute unprofessional conduct. They are included as an appendix to this statement for your information. It is the position of the NAB that this is the proper way for members of a profession to maintain the high standards necessary to gain the respect of the people they serve.
The Ñ AB is aware of the worthwhile purposes of this bill and feels that the deletion of this provision would not seriously impair them. Its retention, however, would be an unnecessary regulation of commercial advertising when the same result could be obtained by the use of internal professional controls.
SECTION C. ADVERTISING
The following are deemed, among others, to be unethical and to constitute unprofessional conduct:
Soliciting patients directly or indirectly, individually or collectively through the guise of groups, institutions, or organizations.
1 AOA Rules of Practice, American Optometric Association, Inc., Manual of Professional Practice for the American Optometrist (rev. 1960).
Employing solicitors, publicity agents, entertainers, lecturers, or any mechanical or electronic, visual or auditory device for the solicitation of patronage.
Advertising professional superiority, or the performance of professional services in a superior manner.
Any advertising or conduct of a character tending to deceive or mislead the public.
Advertising one or more types of service to imply superiority or lower fees.
Holding one's self forth to the public under the name of any corporation, company, institution, clinic, association, parlor, or any other name than the name of the optometrist.
Holding one's self forth as possessed of, or utilizing exclusive methods of practice or peculiar styles of service.
Displaying certificates, diplomas, or similar documents unless the same have been earned by the optometrist. Guaranteeing or warranting the results of professional services.
Advertising of any character which includes or contains any fee whatsoever, or any reference thereto, or any reference to the cost to the patient, whether related to the examination or the cost or fee for lenses, glasses, frames, mountings, or any other optometric services, article, or device necessary for the patient.
Offering free examination or other gratuitous services, bonuses, premiums, discounts, or any other inducements.
Permitting the display of his name in any city, commercial, telephone or other public directory or directory in the lobby of public halls in an office or public building, using any type which is in any way different from the standard size, shape, or color of the type regularly used in such medium.
Permitting his name to be put in any public directory under a heading other than "Optometrist.”
Printing professional cards, billheads, letterheads, and stationery with illustrations or printed materials other than his name, title, address, telephone number, office hours, and specialty, if any.
Displaying large, glaring or flickering signs, or any sign or other depiction containing as a part thereof the representation of an eye, eyeglasses, spectacles, or any portion of the human head.
Using large lettering or other devices or unusual depictions upon the office doors or windows.
Mr. Sisk. Now, so far as the Chair knows, this concludes all the witnesses who have sought to make a statement. I might say that this morning, Mr. Harsha raised a question of Mr. Kohn with reference to a legal question at the time of discussion.
He apparently had hoped you would have some chance to comment on it, Mr. Kohn. I do not want to cut you off or anything, but I believe you were in the room at the time that mention was made. Are you aware of what I am mentioning?
Mr. Kohn. Sir, there were so many legal questions referred to, I really do not know particularly which one you mean. Mr. Sisk. Well, that is fine.
There was a specific question at one time raised, as I say, I believe by Mr. Harsha of Ohio, which he thought at a later time you would want to make a comment on. The Chair will have to admit at this time that he does not know what the question was. If you have a brief comment, I would be glad to hear you; otherwise, we are ready to conclude the hearing.
(There was no response.)
We shall leave the record open for 10 days. This concludes the bearing on this bill.
(Whereupon, at 4:05 o'clock p.m., the hearings were adjourned.)
(Subsequently the following statements were received for the record :)
STATEMENT OF HON. DON FUQUA, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF FLORIDA
Mr. Fuqua. I wish to bring to the attention of this committee my support and endorsement of this proposal to revise the existing law relating to the examination, licensure, registration, and regulation of optometrists and the practice of optometry in the District of Columiba. The practice of optometry has been of concern to me even prior to my coming to the U.S. Congress since I worked diligently in the Florida State Legislature for the passage of legislation providing scholarships for students in our State. Less than 2 years ago, I actively supported in Congress legislation for loans to students of optometry and expressed to the House my interest in the bill H.R. 8546 of the 88th Congress. As you may recall, S. 2180 was passed in lieu of the House bill and it is now Public Law 88-654.
There has been and still is, a great need for optometrists. This country now has only about 1 optometrist for every 12,500 persons, whereas the recognized minimum is 1 for every 7,000 persons. With such deficiencies, I believe it is important that we protect the visually needy of the District of Columbia by assuring them that those who are practicing optometry are duly licensed and trained. This discrepancy of not being able to meet the demands of those needing the services of an optometrist is an unfortunate, but perfect atmosphere for the unlicensed and untrained exploiters to invade the field.
The District of Columbia law regulating the practice of optometry is grossly antiquated and obsolete. Being enacted in 1924, it has remained unchanged while optometry laws in all 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. I introduced H.R. 13049 and am advocating these amendments for obvious reasons being presented to this committee, and which I reiterate in my own statement.
Need for amendments to the present law is found in more than its regulatory statutes when we see the practice of optometry defined as a mechanical art. Congress has seen fit to assist in the education of the students of optometry during their training of 6 years and by so doing certainly recognizes the need of the practice and its place as necessary in the well-being of the individual. The laws of most of the States have affirmatively and directly stated that optometry is a profession. Optometry can't be considered so erroneously as a mechanical art when it is actually coordinate to the professions of medicine and dentistry and is due regulating statutes for practice so as to define the scope of the profession just as the other health arts. Therefore, optometry is a profession which should be regulated in the public interest and the responsibility of the optometrist must be made clear as that of fulfilling his obligation to protect, conserve, and improve the vision of his patients.
Enactment of the legislation is badly needed to bring the standards of practice in optometry up to a level which will provide adequate protection for the visual needs of persons seeking vision care within the District of Columbia. I respectfully request of the committee favorable consideration of this proposal to enact regulations, comparable to those governing the other learned professions, for the practice of optometry for the protection of the public against ignorance, incapacity, deception, and fraud.
Washington, D.C., March 17, 1966.
DEAR CONGRESSMAN DowDY: The attention of our association has been called to the above-entitled bill for which we understand hearings are to be held on March 21, 1966. Our association is strongly opposed to many portions of this bill. Because of the fact that the hearings are about to be held we have been unable to prepare as complete a statement as we would like, but we do ask that the contents of this letter be considered by your committee and included in the record.
Our association firmly objects to those portions of this bill which would prohibit the advertising of optometrist services, which would prohibit the practice of optometry in premises not exclusively devoted to practice of optometry, and the other similar clauses of the bill, the effect of which would be to prohibit optometric departments in commercial establishments.
This bill is merely the latest in a long list of bills which have been introduced in the House over a period of at least the last 20 years. Each previously introduced bill has been disapproved by your committee either with or without hearings. . Your files will undoubtedly hold volumes of testimony both pro and con on this subject, the net result of which has been to disapprove the bill. We call your attention to this because it almost seems unnecessary to go through the same hearings again in view of the long and extensive history of this proposed legislation. There has been no change in circumstance which would warrant reexamination of the subject.
There are, of course, a good many provisions in this proposed act for which we have no objections and indeed, we have in the past sat down with members of the local optometric association, the Corporation Counsel of the District of Columbia, and other interested persons in order to work out a compromise solution. We are willing to do so again in the future.
The principal object of the bill in its present form is simple and our objection to it is direct: the bill would force out of business all optometrists who operate from jewelry stores, department stores, and other commercial establishments or who operate in street front locations. From the standpoint of the selfish interests of the so-called upstairs optometrist, this is no doubt a worthwhile objective. From the standpoint of the public the bill is detrimental. The optometrists who operate in the setting which this bill would prohibit are by and large those who furnish competent optometric services to the public at the lowest prices. It cannot be doubted that if this bill were enacted, the average cost of optometrical service in the District of Columbia would escalate rapidly and severely. If any public good would incidentally be accomplished along with such an increase in cost, that, of course, would be an argument and justification, but the facts are to the contrary.
So far as we know, there are no material complaints against the optometrists which this bill would force out of business with respect to the quality of their services or their standards and ethics. Our observation over the years is that complaints against optometrists who operate from commercial establishments (and probably do more business per person than others) has been no greater than any other form of this business. We have verified this by communicating with Mr. Leland McCarthy, manager of the Better Business Bureau of the District of Columbia. Mr. McCarthy, informs us that his records indicate that over the years complaints against optometrists, whether operating from stores or otherwise, has been neglibible.
We have used the word "business” advisedly. The bill would call optometry a profession. Whether or not a calling is a profession should not depend on legislative enactment but should depend upon the quality, skills, and personal relationships existing in the services performed. As Chief Judge Groner of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said in the landmark case of Silver v. Lansburgh & Bro. et al., 72 App. D.C. 77 (p. 79) :
“In this view, we may very well concede that optometry is a profession, as that term is now colloquially used, but that fact is not enough to bring the rule into effect. There is no more reason to prohibit a corporation, organized for the purpose, from employing licensed optometrists, than there is to prohibit similar employment of accountants, architects, or engineers. We know of no instance in which the right in any of those cases has ever been challenged, though universally all are deemed professions.”
The public good is paramount and that good is adversely affected by this bill. Yet also to be considered is the tremendous investment that many persons and businesses have in optometric departments. These investments would be totally destroyed by this bill. Many optometrists would be permanently denied the right to work since they probably could not now compete in setting up their own "upstairs” business with those of longstanding practice.
There are many more things which could be said but we are trying to voice our objections briefly and succinctly. For all of the above reasons, the bill should be rejected. As we have stated, we would be very happy to participate in drafting compromise legislation. Respectfully,
HENRY H. BRYLAWSKI,
CHARLOTTE, N.C., March 23, 1966. Representative Basil WHITENER, Longworth House Office Building, Washington, D.C.
Regarding H.R. 12937, I would like to express my total opposition to this bill. These are optometrists who are attempting to gain by laws what they lack in education. They are not able by education or training or have proven in past ability to perform the function which they request. I would like to state for you the referred to report, dated March 24, 1962, on the optometrist work with the North Carolina Commission for the Blind is true and valid. This report is part of the North Carolina commission minutes of the spring meeting of 1962. The records are part of the public records on file with the North Carolina Blind Commission, Raleigh. Sincerely,
RICHARD B. RANKIN, Jr., M.D.
Houston, Tex., March 26, 1966. Hon. John Dowdy, Chairman, Subcommittee No. 4, House District Committee, Longworth House Office Building, Washington, D.C.
The Houston Ophthalmological Society wishes to respectfully go on record as being equivocally opposed to H.R. 12937; to regulate the practice of optometry in the District of Columbia. This bill is definitely not in the public interest as it will restrict the ability of the medically trained eye physicians to properly diagnose and treat anomalies and diseases of the eye. We respectfully request that this statement be entered into the hearing record.
GEORGE ROBERT KOLODNY, M.D., President of the Houston Ophthalmological Society.
Austin, Tex., March 27, 1966. Hon. John Dowdy, Chairman, Subcommittee No. 4, House District Affairs Committee, Longworth House Office Building, Washington, D.C.:
I regret the error made in the original night letter signed by Dr. Horald E. Hunt and myself. The Texas Ophthalmological Association upholds wholeheartedly the arguments presented by the District of Columbia ophthalmological Society in opposing H. R. 12937, a bill to regulate the practice of Optometry in the District of Columbia. Bill H. R. 12937 should be defeated as it is not in the best public interest.
HENRY L. HilgARTNER, M.D., President-Elect, Texas Ophthalmological Association.
NORTHERN VIRGINIA ACADEMY OF OPHTHALMOLOGY,
Arlington, Va., March 26, 1966. Congressman John Dowdy, Chairman, Subcommittee No. 4, House District Committee, Longworth House Office Building, Washington, DC.
DEAR CONGRESSMAN Dowdy: At a meeting of the Northern Virginia Academy of Ophthalmology on March 21, 1966, the enclosed motion was passed by our membership. We are in complete support with the stand of the Section of Ophthalmology, Medical Society of the District of Columbia.
We should like the enclosed resolution to be introduced in the meeting stating our opposition to any changes in this law. Very truly yours,
John F. HANNON, M.D. Resolved: The Northern Virginia Academy of Ophthalmology is unanimous in its support of the position held by the Society of the District of Columbia on H.R. 12937, District of Columbia Optometry Act.