More alleged victims prompts more charges against unlicensed Utah eye doctor

An unlicensed Salt Lake eye doctor already charged with performing surgeries that left patients with severe or permanent injuries is facing new charges after more alleged victims have been identified.

An unlicensed Salt Lake eye doctor already charged with performing surgeries that left patients with severe or permanent injuries is facing new charges after more alleged victims have been identified. (Zolnierek, Shutterstock)

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SALT LAKE CITY — A Salt Lake eye doctor scheduled to go to trial in January on charges of performing surgeries while his license was suspended — leaving at least one patient blind — is now facing new criminal charges after more alleged victims were identified.

Paul Wade Wyatt, 54, was charged Wednesday in 3rd District Court with four counts of aggravated assault, three second-degree felonies and a third-degree felony; and four counts of engaging in unlawful and unprofessional conduct, a third-degree felony.

Wyatt already faces seven counts of aggravated assault, a second-degree felony, and seven counts of unlawful or unprofessional conduct, a third-degree felony — charges that were filed in 2020 by the Utah Attorney General's Office. A four-day trial in that case is scheduled to begin on Jan. 31.

Wyatt performed at least seven eye surgeries in 2018, even though his "license to perform ophthalmology surgeries in Utah has been suspended since October 2016," according to his original charging documents. Investigators allege that each of those surgeries left the victims with permanent or severe injuries.

One of those patients, Robert Arias, filed a lawsuit against Wyatt claiming a series of botched surgeries left him permanently blind in his right eye. The lawsuit contends that Wyatt, a volunteer ophthalmologist, quietly made offers to undocumented patients, saying he would perform cataract surgery at his Holladay practice, ahead of the clinic's one- to two-year wait time, for $800 — a fraction of the average cost for such surgeries.

According to court records, at one point during the civil lawsuit, a $20 million settlement was proposed. In April of 2020, however, Arias' attorneys informed the court that Wyatt had filed for bankruptcy and that no further hearings were being requested by the plaintiffs. The lawsuit was dismissed in April of this year without prejudice due to lack of activity.

Prosecutors have identified an additional three alleged victims who underwent four surgeries. According to those charging documents filed Wednesday:

  • Wyatt performed surgery on Jan. 17, 2019, on a woman that "resulted in extreme pain and bleeding ... that lasted days; even nine months later, her eyes were red, teary, sensitive, and easily irritated."
  • On Jan. 4, 2019, Wyatt performed surgery on a man that required the use of a scalpel on his right eye. "The surgery resulted immediately in extreme pain in the eye that continued through subsequent follow-up appointments with the defendant over the course of weeks; during that time period, (the man) lost the vision in his right eye."
  • On Nov. 21 and 29, 2018, Wyatt performed surgery on a man that resulted "in an incorrectly positioned intraocular lens that caused inflammation of the eye, high eye pressure, and bleeding in the anterior chamber of the eye." Another ophthalmologist needed to perform two surgeries on the man to fix the problem.

An initial court appearance for Wyatt's new charges is scheduled for Dec. 8.

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Pat Reavy is a longtime police and courts reporter. He joined the team in 2021, after many years of reporting at the Deseret News and KSL NewsRadio before that.


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