Two months after Michigan-based TV meteorologist Jessica Starr took her own life, her husband said the 35-year-old mother of two had not been depressed before having the eye surgery that preceded her death.
Starr, a staple on Fox 2 Detroit, committed suicide on Dec. 12, two months after getting corrective eye surgery. Her last social media post before killing herself suggested that recovery from the procedure had been a “struggle,” and her sudden death prompted increased debate surrounding the possibility that such surgeries may be linked to suicide.
Starr’s husband Dan Rose, with whom she shared two young children, suggested to Fox 2 Detroit this week that Starr’s eye surgery was the catalyst for a profound change in his wife, one that ultimately turned deadly.
“Prior to the procedure, Jessica was completely normal, very healthy,” he said. “There was no depression, there was no antidepressants, there was no underlying issue. I want to make that absolutely clear. Jessica was incredibly normal — there wasn’t a long battle with depression. Again, there was no antidepressants, there was no alcohol abuse. There was nothing.”
Rose expressed a similar sentiment during an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Wednesday, stating that he and Starr’s remaining family “absolutely” attribute her death to complications she endured following the surgery.
“There was nothing else that we can attribute it to,” he said.
Starr’s mother, Carol Starr, told “GMA” that her daughter lost 25 pounds after having the procedure done. Carol Starr recounted repeatedly asking her daughter how she was feeling after the surgery, and said that Jessica responded, “I’m not eating and I’m not sleeping, Mom. This is worrying me. I don’t think it’s gonna get better.”
Starr’s surgery was a small-incision lenticule extraction, otherwise known as SMILE, according to “Good Morning America.” The procedure corrects nearsightedness and was approved by the FDA in 2016, a news release from the government agency states. Known complications include dry eyes, blurred vision and difficulty focusing, as well as “glares” and “halos” that may be moderate to severe, according to another FDA release.
Zeiss, the company that produces the laser used for the SMILE procedure, is a member of the American Refractive Surgery Council, a group described on its website as an organization of “industry representatives and medical professionals.” The council issued a statement to Oxygen.com offering their condolences to Starr’s family but citing the “rigorous scientific study” that the SMILE procedure underwent as part of the FDA approval process — clinical trials that involved more than 700 patients, and that confirmed that SMILE is “safe and effective,” they said.
“We are saddened about Jessica Starr’s death and convey our sympathy to her family, friends and all who are affected. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the United States and one of the few that is rising. However, it cannot be reduced to any single cause, and there is no clinical evidence linking suicide to laser vision correction surgery,” their statement reads. “Based on the 7,000+ studies conducted, the millions of satisfied patients and the successful twenty years in-market history, we are fully confident in the safety and efficacy of laser vision correction for qualified candidates.”
Starr’s family have held fast to their claim that the surgery precipitated Starr’s downward spiral. Rose told Fox 2 Detroit that his wife felt that something wasn’t right after she had the procedure done and went to multiple doctors trying to find help. On one occasion, Rose said, after she’d come home from getting her “3rd or 4th second opinion,” he approached her and asked her what was wrong.
“She looked at me and she said, ‘Dan, it’s like my eyes and my brain aren’t communicating like they used to. I can’t process like I used to. I’m not visualizing things like I used to,’” Rose said.
Starr had previously suggested on social media that her recovery had not been an easy road, calling it a “hard go” in a Facebook video one month before her death.
“I do still need all the prayers and well wishes 'cause this is a hard go. The doctor said it could take up to three months or so for me to feel 100 percent again,” she said.
Her final tweet, published the day after the Facebook video, was in a similar vein, reading, “Yesterday was a struggle for me. I really wanted to come back but need more time to recover. Please keep me in your thoughts during this challenging time.”
Starr left behind videos and a 30-page suicide letter that has afforded her family insight into her mental state before her death, the station reports, adding that Starr was explicit in claiming that the decision to end her life was a result of the surgery she’d had.
Rose said that he’s sharing his wife’s story now in the hopes of raising awareness and helping others avoid going through what he and his family have.
“We want to try to help somebody,” he said. “If we can save one life and at least make somebody aware, even a spouse — if a husband gets this procedure — I want the wife to just watch for signs.”
The ARSC acknowledged in their statement to Oxygen.com that there is a “healing process after any type of laser vision correction — including SMILE — and the need for post-surgical care,” but, citing clinical data, the council contends that “serious sight-compromising complications are extremely rare — on par with other laser vision correction procedures of less than 1 percent.”
“Not everyone is a candidate for laser vision correction and every individual must weigh the risks and benefits of an elective medical procedure,” they continued. “The Refractive Surgery Council actively supports patient education efforts with the goal of ensuring those who are interested in laser vision correction get the information they need to make the right decision for themselves and their vision.”
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