Are doctors over-radiating patients?

If you are going to the hospital hoping for a diagnosis of your illness using a form of radiation technology like a CT scan, or if you are being treated for a serious disease like cancer with radiation, the last thing you expect is to be hurt by the very technology that is supposed to save your life.  Unfortunately, in Virginia and across the United States over-radiation is a very real and very dangerous type of preventable medical error.


Over-radiation is a hidden but serious problem for patients receiving radiation treatment for diseases like cancer, and is also a problem for patients being screened for disease.  An in-depth report by the New York Times reveals some startling cases of patient over-radiation, and uncovers some shocking factors that contribute to this dangerous medical mistake. 


In addition, late last year the FDA began investigating why some patients undergoing CT perfusion brain scans were receiving excessive amounts of radiation.  FDA investigators observed that the problem of excess radiation may be widespread.


Factors that contribute to patient over-radiation:

  • Hospitals fail to adequately fund training and develop safety protocols to allow safe operation of sophisticated new radiation machines.
  • Safety procedures become outdated and ineffective when overtaken by advanced technology.
  • Manufacturers sell machines to hospitals before all software bugs have been identified and removed.
  • Slow response from government regulators, which has allowed new technology to outpace regulations and laws intended to protect patients.  Additionally, there is no reporting system and relevant laws are patchy and weak.
  • Some states have non-existent or lax licensing and regulation laws for radiation professionals like radiation therapists and medical physicists.  Sixteen states and D.C. do not require any licensing or registration at all, and eight states allow technologists to perform medical imaging (other than mammographies) with no credentials or educational requirements.


Cases of patient over-radiation:

  • 280 patients received 8 times the intended dose of radiation at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.  The error went on for 18 months and was not detected until patients started losing their hair.
  • 36 cancer patients at a VA hospital in New Jersey were over-radiated for months by a medical team without adequate training or experience using a radiation machine, and no system was in place at the hospital to catch such errors.
  • A Texas man now needs external bags to defecate and urinate due to radiation injuries.  The man’s overdose has not been reported to authorities because there are no rules requiring that such an error be reported.
  • A Louisiana man received 38 straight radiation overdoses while being treated for prostate cancer with a new radiation machine, even with the machine’s training instructors still on-site.


If you suspect that you or someone you love has been the victim of a preventable medical mistake like over-radiation, please contact the skilled medical malpractice lawyers at Tavss Fletcher immediately.  Our experienced personal injury attorneys have dedicated their careers to helping men and women in Virginia and North Carolina, and they can help you, too.



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