Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 12 June 2011





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Eye-doctor catches the world’s eye

In our current matter-of-fact world, miracles have taken a holiday. You depress a key in your computer, it responds with the conventional reaction. You push a button in your electronic appliance, the expected result is registered. The automata that dominate our daily routine, have diminished our belief in miracles.

But, even in this seemingly dull and unimaginative human atmosphere of our day, on a very rare occasion an unexpectedly surprising event revives our flagging faith in the miraculous.

At a recent gathering in a five-star hotel in Colombo, a young ophthalmologist gave his audience a very strong base, on which we could rebuild our belief in miracles.

To the youthful eye-doctor, it would have been the presentation of a procedure he had developed over the years.

Wonder therapy

But, to the world, it was the announcement of a wonder-therapy for sick-eyes.

The eye is the window, nature has provided to humans, to view the marvels of the visual world.

Impairment of sight, condemns men and women into a harrowing landscape of darkness.

As is widely known, the cataract is the commonest cause of reversible blindness. As experts explain, a “cataract” is the clouding of the eye-lens. It is only surgery that can reverse the vision impairment, brought on by a cataract.

Dr. Shamintha Amaratunga, the young eye-doctor, has been dedicated to his profession, with the zeal of a mission.

Certain circumstances, that did not have very much to do with medicine, made it possible for me to know Dr. Amaratunga, about a decade ago. Soka Gakkai Association of Singapore, nominated me for their Golden Peace Award.

I was offered this honour, primarily due to the efforts of Paul Dias, the then Director-General of Soka Gakkai, Sri Lanka. Young Dr. Amaratunga was one of the members of the retinae that accompanied me to Singapore, where I had to deliver the address and receive the award.

Eye surgery on infant

At a lunch hosted by the Singapore Organization, Dr. Amaratunga described in minute detail, the procedure he adopted to perform surgery on a new-born child. The profoundly sensitive nature of that eye-surgery on the infant, moved me to tears. The hosts too, were equally touched.

This was my initial introduction to his keen, selfless commitment, and his total preoccupation with the need to refine the procedure. Dr. Amaratunga presents a youthful personality and at times he seems even boyish in appearance.

This places greater emphasis on his professional maturity. As an entry into the process through which he developed his own system, Dr. Amaratunga provides a useful background.

The aim of the surgery is to remove the cloudy material within the lens and to replace it, with an artificial lens implant.

The cloudy material is removed with the support of the latest technology described as “Phaco emulsification.” This is done with a topical anaesthetic agent and it is a sutureless surgical procedure.” The admirable aspect of “The Amaratunga” story is the sustained effort he made over the years, to accelerate the procedure while fully retaining the required quality and safety standards.


One could very well wonder, why such an acceleration was deemed essential. This was determined due to the urgency, to heal fast developing numbers of cataract patients.

It is estimated that there are about 500,000 cataract patients in Sri Lanka. Of these about 100,000 are condemned to total blindness. Statistics show that the number of patients keeps on burgeoning at the rate of 100,000 a year.

This way it is starkly clear, that it is an urgent national need to visually rehabilitate these cataract victims. In terms of the resources available only 80,000 patients could receive cataract surgery per year.

The only viable solution, under the circumstances, is highly responsible acceleration of the pace of the procedure. Over the years, he refined this input, and has now developed into a standard and accepted procedure.

He dwells briefly upon the phases through which he reached the present miraculous peak.

Over a period of four-and-a-half years, he could manage 6 cataract surgeries per hour. But, today, thanks to his self-developed procedure, he can currently perform 20 surgeries per hour. For Dr. Amaratunga, the average time per surgery is two minutes 20 seconds.

In a praiseworthy gesture of high generosity, Dr. Shamintha Amaratunga shares his system, with his colleagues, through his e-book titled “Beyond the Threshold. Efficiency in cataract surgery.”

At the launch of this video, the chief guest Maithripala Sirisena, Minister of Health, observed inter alia, that the distinguished achievement of Dr. Amaratunga, may elicit jealousy.

Young Dr. Amaratunga has developed a procedure to treat the cataract, to prevent human blindness. But, a procedure is yet to be developed to eradicate the cataract of the soul which makes people blind to what is starkly good and great.



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