The New York Times has reported on the excessive exposure of patients to radiation at medical facilities across America, including:
- In New Jersey, 36 cancer patients at a veterans hospital in East Orange were over radiated — and 20 more received substandard treatment — by a medical team that lacked experience in using a machine that generated high-powered beams of radiation.
- In Louisiana, a prostate cancer patient received twice the prescribed amount of radiation because he was treated with a new machine that the hospital made a miscalculation even with training instructors still on site.
- In Texas, a patient suffered severe radiation injuries after a medical physicist who said he was overworked failed to detect a mistake.
- In California, more than 300 patients in four hospitals — and possibly many more — were over radiated by powerful CT scans used to detect strokes. The overdoses were first discovered at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, a major Los Angeles hospital, where 260 patients received up to eight times as much radiation as intended.
The over radiation of patients is often not disclosed to patients or reported to public health authorities. In many cases, the mistakes continue for months because the hospital has no system in place to catch the errors. In one study of clinical trials, nearly 20 percent of the hospitals that used powerful radiation treatments from machines known as linear accelerators had at least one radiation beam outside the acceptable range.
Legal Resources for Patients Overexposed to Radiation
New radiation technologies have brought benefits but also created new avenues for error in software and operation. A single error can be repeated in multiple radiation sessions for scores of patients. While serious radiation injuries are infrequent, when they occur the patient can suffer devastating injuries resulting in death.
These deadly errors often could have been avoided if the medical providers had followed basic safety protocols as well as ensured that their protocols provided sufficient patient safety.
The law in most states provides several personal injury claims for persons who have been seriously injured through the negligence of a medical provider. Damages can include compensation for:
- Physical pain and suffering, mental anguish and physical impairment;
- Medical expenses associated with efforts to remedy the injuries as a result of the original surgery; and
- Loss of earnings and/or earning capacity.
In the case of a patient’s death, the family of the victim may file a wrongful death action and seek damages.