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referrals by optometrists in their private offices to ophthalmologists in their private offices.
Also, Dr. Dryden referred to the number of practicing optometrists in the District and the number represented by the society. He used a figure of something like 35 percent membership. The correct figure for the District of Columbia is 56 percent membership. For the metropolitan arca, with the Northern Virginia Society having 100 percent membership and the Central Maryland Optometric Society having something like 65 percent membership, the overall percentage is approximately 70 percent for membership in local societies and thus membership in the American Optometric Association.
I might add that the District Society's 56 percent is a rather good figure for large metropolitan areas. Just recently a survey came across my desk which showed that Milwaukee, Wis., has a membership figure of only 39 percent. The point, of course, is that it is the large metropolitan areas of the country where the unethical practice of optometry most flourishes, and it is precisely those practitioners who cannot, because of the ethical question, be members of their respective professional organizations.
If there is additional information I might provide, I hope you will let me know. It is requested that this letter be made a part of the record of the hearings on H.R. 12937. With every best regard. Cordially,
HORACE W. WHITE, Jr.,
Washington, D.C., April 1, 1966. Hon. John Dowdy, U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, D.C.
DEAR John: At the conclusion of the hearings on the bill, H.R. 12937, on Wednesday, March 23, 1966, I was granted permission to submit proposed amendments to the subcommittee for consideration. After consulting with the people whom I represent, I am enclosing a copy of amendments which we feel should be made to this legislation.
I would appreciate it very much if you will see that these amendments are included in the printed hearings, and in the near future I will submit copies of these amendments to the other members of this subcommittee. With kindest personal regards to you, I am Sincerely,
William N. McLEOD, Jr.
PROPOSED AMENDMENTS TO THE BILL H.R. 12937
1. On page 1, line 9, and page 2, line 1, strike the words "Optometry is hereby declared to be a profession.'
2. On page 2, strike lines 14 and through the word "structures;" in line 16. 3. On page 2, strike line 19 and through the word "general;"' in line 20.
4. On page 2, line 21, after the word “lenses” strike the comma and insert the word "or''.
5. On page 2, line 21, strike the words “or frames". 6. On page 3, line 2, strike the words “or function” and insert “of vision”.
7. On page 3, line 3, after the word "eye" strike the comma and the following an guage: “including its associated structures”.
8. On page 7, strike the language in lines 18 through line 24 and on page 8, strike the language in lines 1 through line 16.
9. On page 8, line 25, and page 9, line 1, strike the following: “, profession, or professional title by or”.
10. On page 9, line 2, strike the word "professional”; 11. On page 9, line 5, strike the word "professional” and insert “optometric”?: 12. On page 9, line 6, strike the word "professional” and insert “optometric”. 13. On page 9, strike lines 7 through 18. 14. On page 10, strike lines 18 through 22.
15. On page 11, strike lines 16 through 24 and on page 12, strike lines 1 through 6.
16. On page 12, strike lines 14 through 22.
17. On page 14, strike lines 19 through 25 and on page 15, strike lines 1 through line 9.
18. On page 15, line 19, insert a period after the word "optometry" and strike the rest of the language on page 15 and down to and including line 15 on page 16.
Renumber each section and subsection accordingly.
Washington (D.C.) PUBLISHERS AssociaTION,
Washington, D.C., April 2, 1966. Hon. John Dowdy, Chairman, Subcommittee No. 4, District of Columbia Committee, House of Representatives, Washington, D.C. (Attention of Mr. James T. Clark, clerk, District of Columbia Committee, Old
House Office Building.)
DEAR MR. CHAIRMAN: We are enclosing herewith a statement of the Washington Publishers Association with respect to H.R. 12937 which is being considered by your subcommittee. We respectfully request that the enclosed statement be filed and incorporated in the record of the hearings with respect to this bill.
If additional copies of the enclosed statement are desired, we shall be pleased to supply them.
In view of the limited time that may be available before action is taken by your subcommittee or by the full committee with regard to H.R. 12937, we have sent copies of this statement to Mr. McMillan and the other members of the full committee.
We appreciate this opportunity to make the views of the association a part of the official record. Respectfully submitted.
HENRY C. GRONKIEWICZ,
STATEMENT OF WASHINGTON PUBLISHERS AssociATION WITH RESPECT TO
H.R. 12937 The Washington Publishers Association herewith respectfully submits its views in connection with the consideration of H.R. 12937 and related bills before the Subcommittee No. 4 of the House District Committee. It is requested that this statement be incorporated in and made a part of the written record with respect to the proposed legislation.
The Washington Publishers Association is an organization composed of Washington's three daily newspapers, the Evening Star, the Washington Daily News, and the Washington Post.
The newspapers of this community are vitally interested in the maintenance of high standards in connection with the rendering of eye care services to the public. We firmly believe that the public should be adequately protected against anyone providing eye care services who is not qualified to do so.
To the extent that there are abuses in the practice of optometry or in connection with the sale of optical products in the District of Columbia, which are not adequately protected against under existing law, we believe that the law should be strengthened and vigorously enforced.
H. R. 12937, however, appears to go beyond the limits of appropriate regulation of the practice of optometry in the public interest. It would, for example, unduly restrict the services traditionally provided by opticians, optical companies and others without regard to the nature and quality of the services performed or the qualifications and competence of the persons who perform such services.
We particularly oppose the provisions of H.R. 12937 prohibiting all advertisements by optometrists and any reference to prices of optical products in advertisements by opticians and others. We agree with the conclusion reached by the Commissioners of the District of Columbia that prohibitions of this nature do not serve the best interests of the general public." Letter from Hon. Walter N. Tobriner, President, Board of Commissioners, District of Columbia to Hon. John L. McMillan, chairman, Committee on the District of Columbia, dated March 18, 1966, page 9.
Initially, we note that all advertising in connection with the sale of optical products is subject to stringent requirements of existing law prohibiting advertising which is false or misleading. There is a statutory ban against "false, untrue or misleading” advertising in the District Code (sec. 1 of the act of May 29, 1916, 39 Stat. 165; sec. 42–21, District Code, 1961 ed.), and section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act declares unlawful “unfair methods of competition in com
merce and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in commerce" (15 U.S.C. sec. 45). In addition, the FTC has promulgated comprehensive trade practice rules for the optical products industry which set forth in detail advertising practices in connection with the sale of optical products which the Commission deems to be violations of the act.
Section 7(a)(8) of the proposed bill authorizes revocation of a license to practice optometry if the licensee engages in: "advertising, directly or indirectly, the performance of optometric service or any part thereof, including the furnishing of ophthalmic or optical material in any form, manner or way. * * *
We fail to see why an optometrist should not be free to make the availability of his services known to the public through advertising. As the District Commissioners have pointed out, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has held in Silver v. Lansburgh and Bro. et al., 72 App. D.C. 77, 111 F. 2d 518 (1940), that the relationship between the optometrist and his patient, unlike that between a physician and his patient or a lawyer and his client, is not such a professional relationship as to render legitimate commercial activities by the optometrist inappropriate. We see nothing in the record of the hearings with respect to the present bill that would alter this conclusion.
Nor is there anything in the record of the present hearing to establish that there is a necessary causal relationship between advertising and lower standards or abuses in the practice of optometry. In the absence of convincing evidence in this regard, we believe that it is improper to assume that an optometrist who advertises is less qualified than one who does not, or that a qualified optometrist who advertises will perform to a lesser extent of his ability than one who does not.
To the extent that there are abuses of the practice of optometry by optometrists who advertise, or who are employed by corporations which advertise, we submit that these abuses should be publicly examined to see if there are not other more direct and effective ways of regulating or preventing them. To prohibit all optometrists from legitimate advertising merely because a few who do so abuse or may abuse their profession, however, is clearly “burning the barn to roast the pig.
This is not to say that the practice of optometry should not be treated as a skilled profession in which the highest standards of ethical conduct should be required. It merely means that one group of optometrists should not by statute be able to impose their views as to the propriety of advertising upon all members of their profession without a clear and conclusive showing that advertising necessarily has a detrimental effect upon standards in the profession.
Section 8(a) (5) of the proposed bill makes it unlawful for any person: "[T]o advertise or cause to be advertised any optometric or ophthalmic material of any character which includes or contains any price cost or any reference thereto, whether related to any eye examination or to the cost or price of lenses, glasses, mountings or ophthalmic items or devices."
This provision eliminates price advertising in connection with the entire range of optical products sold in the District of Columbia. Strictly construed, it would prohibit price advertising of such “optometric material(s)” as nonprescription sunglasses and such “ophthalmic material(s) as Murine.
Even if the proposed bill is amended or clarified to eliminate such items from its coverage, we do not believe that the optician, optical company or optometrist should be prohibited from informing the public as to the prices of lenses, glasses or frames by advertising which is not false or misleading. These products are in most respects no different from other commodities which embody skilled craftsmanship. This is particularly true with respect to frames which, like shoes or dresses, are frequently purchased primarily on the basis of cosmetic considerations.
While the manufacture and grinding of lenses and glasses requires considerable skill and attention and an inferior product may directly affect the health of the eye, price advertising of these products should be prohibited only if it is clearly shown that such advertising necessarily results in lower quality standards.
The price competition which such advertising engenders in the sale of optical products allows the public to benefit from lower prices, which in many instances encourage or enable persons to obtain visual aids that they need but that they would otherwise be unable or unwilling to purchase. Moreover, experience in this country demonstrates that healthy competition promotes innovation and frequently results in better products being made available to the public.
The record of the present bearings fails to establish that healthy price competition fostered by advertising is incompatible with the maintenance of acceptable quality standards in connection with the sale of optical products. If the use of
inferior materials or inferior workmanship is or becomes prevalent, we submit that proper protection of the public requires the establishment of minimum quality standards and/or required checks of the finished lenses and glasses bý a qualified optometrist or ophthalmologist rather than the stifling of competition through a blanket prohibition against price advertising.
In conclusion, we submit that prohibitions against legitimate advertising are an extremely inappropriate method of regulation. They are a poor and ineffective substitute for more direct regulatory provisions which go to the core of whatever abuses or improper practices may exist. Frequently the only effect of such prohibitions is the elimination of competition contrary to the public interest.
For the above reasons, the members of the Washington Publishers Association respectfully urge that if the committee decides to act favorably with respect to H. Ř. 12937 that it first delete therefrom the restrictions upon advertising contained in section 7(a) (8) and section 8(a)(5).
THE MEDICAL SOCIETY OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA,
Washington, March 30, 1966. Hon. Basil LEE WHITENER, 2422 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C.
DEAR CONGRESSMAN WHITENER: As you recall the testimony given before the House District Committee regarding H.R. 12937, representatives of the American Optometric Association stated that optometrists are capable of recognizing eye diseases and that they do refer persons with such diseases to physicians for medical
The excellent report of the North Carolina State Commission for the Blind, which I made part of the record during my testimony before the committee on Tuesday, March 22, 1966, would certainly seem to cast considerable doubt on the two aforementioned claims of optometry.
The medical profession's sole objective is to assure that the public obtains the best possible medical care irrespective of the status of the citizen involved and to see that no citizen in the District of Columbia is prevented from obtaining medical care in the manner so typically illustrated in this report of the North Carolina State Commission for the Blind.
With this objective in mind, may I respectifully submit for your consideration and sponsorship the following amendment to the bill under consideration:
“Every optometrist shall within ten days after the completion of an optometric refraction, refer to a physician for a medical eye examination every person whose visual acuity the optometrist does not improve to at least twenty over thirty Snellen in each eye. The optometrist shall not thereafter prescribe, provide, furnish or adapt lenses, prisms or ocular exercises for such person unless and until the optometrist receives written approval from a physician. Failure to comply with this section shall constitute unprofessional conduct and shall also be a misdemeanor."
We feel that this would go a long way in protecting the public. If optometry is sincere in their claims, we do not see how they can possibly object to the inclusion of this amendment to the bill. Respectfully yours,
J. SPENCER DRYDEN, M.D.,
Chairman, Executive Board. O
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