Home > Uncategorized > Restoring Eyesight to the Blind – Blindness No Longer to Cause Perm. Tot. Disability?

Restoring Eyesight to the Blind – Blindness No Longer to Cause Perm. Tot. Disability?

Happy Wednesday, dear readers!

A while back your humble blogger wrote about bionic arms; if bionic arms can effectively restore the use of one’s hands, should the presumption under Labor Code section 4662(a)(2) still apply?

Well Labor Code section 4662(a)(1) applies to “[l]oss of both eyes or the sight thereof” – what if eye sight could be restored medically?

Second Sight Medical has recently announced a successful procedure by which a patient was given the Orion 1 cortical prosthesis device and regained his sight.

“By bypassing the optic nerve and directly stimulating the visual cortex, the Orion 1 has the potential to restore useful vision to patients completely blinded due to virtually any reason, including glaucoma, cancer, diabetic retinopathy, or trauma.”

Let’s run the numbers real quick: if a worker loses both eyes and is awarded a life pension for total permanent disability at age 38, with a 40-year life expectancy, with a yearly income of $52,000, we’re looking at $666 per week in pension payments for 2080 weeks (40 years x 52 weeks per year).  $1,385,280 in pension payments, plus cost of living adjustments and all the in-home care one could expect with being presumed totally permanently disabled.

How much would an insurer be willing to pay for a medical procedure that would restore eyesight to the applicant, and possibly bypass the life pension?  How much would an injured worker give up to spend the next 40 years of his or her life seeing instead of being blind?

According to this interview, Medicare will reimburse the implant in 2017 at $150,000. (Additional confirmation here as well.)

Seriously guys… am I the only one who thinks this is amazing?

One thing to bear in mind is that in some cases, there will be less-than-scrupulous attorneys that will not give up a commuted life pension attorney fee, even if that means their clients will regain their sight.  You can’t get 15% of an ocular implant, even if you could get 15% of a life pension.  Perhaps that will provide defendants with an opportunity to reduce PD on the theory that applicant (by and through his or her attorney) is unreasonably refusing medical treatment.

If this becomes a regular thing, we’ll have one more shining example of how our Labor Code is drastically out-of-date with the realities of the ability of medicine to reverse the damage done by industrial injury.

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