For many years, radiation therapy has been considered one of the standard treatments given for cancer patients with more than half of all cancer patients receiving some type of radiation therapy. And while radiation does help save many lives, it also presents serious risks for patients and may cause life-threatening injuries or result in potential Illinois medical malpractice.
Therefore, when radiation is used, safety rules must be strictly adhered to because sometimes even the most powerful and technicologically complex machines go awry. And while new technology allows doctors to more accurately attack tumors and reduce certain mistakes, its complexity has created new possibiliities for error through software flaws, faulty programming, poor safety procedures or inadequate staffing and training. When those errors and medical negligence do occur they can be devastating.
Hospitals and doctors trust computer systems and software to apply radiation in many cancer victims. However, there is no single agency that oversees medical radiation and no central clearing house of cases. Furthermore, radiation accidents are chronically underreported, and some states, including Illinois, radiation accidents are not required to be reported at all.
One radiation oncologist at the University of Toledo, John J. Feldmeier, D.O., estimates that 1 in 20 patients suffer injuries as a result of radiation mistakes. For most of the these patients, the mistakes lead only to normal complications from radiation. But in some cases the line between complications and mistakes is uncertain.
According to Fred A. Mettler, Jr., who has investigated radiation accidents around the world and written books on medical radiation, “about half of the accidents are not reported and we don’t know about them.” This gap in reports of radiation accidents could be due to the fact that identifying radiation injuries can be difficult. Organ damage and radiation-induced cancer might not surface for years or decades, while underdosing is difficult to detect because there is no injury. For these reasons, radiation mishaps seldom result in medical malpractice lawsuits.
These reports of radiation therapy injuries should not necessarily deter cancer patients from undergoing radiation therapy treatments. However, cancer patients should be aware that even under the best circumstances, radiation therapy carries a risk, much like surgery or chemotherapy.
Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Ilinois medical malpractice lawsuits for over 30 years, serving those areas in and around Cook County, including Chicago, Winnetka, Downers Grove, and Bolingbrook.
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