Knowing Radiation Oncology Mistakes May Lead to Better Care

While radiation treatment may help doctors to precisely treat tumors to save lives, errors that are made by radiation oncologists may be deadly. Radiation oncology errors may happen when the staff is inadequately trained, when the equipment is improperly programmed, when diagnostic errors happen or when doctors prescribe radiation doses that are simply too high. When these errors happen, patients may suffer from organ damage, radiation-related cancers and other injuries that may cause them serious harm or death. Medical malpractice lawyers may help the victims of radiation oncology errors to recover damages for their economic and noneconomic losses.

The Problem of Errors in Radiation Oncology

Several studies have illuminated the problem of errors in radiation oncology. In a review of data from filed medical malpractice claims that were collected by a nationwide medical liability association over a 10-year period from 2003 to 2012, researchers found that there were 362 claims involving radiation oncologists that had been closed during that time. Out of those, 102 were paid by the insurers. The most common basis, accounting for 38 percent of closed claims, was the improper performance of the radiation oncology procedures. Diagnostic mistakes accounted for 25 percent of the claims. Thirty-nine percent of the closed claims involved injuries that caused the deaths of patients.

An expose that was published in the “New York Times” demonstrated the prevalence of the problem in New York and showed that the incidence is likely higher than what is reported across the nation, including in Illinois. In that report, researchers reviewed data from New York between 2001 and 2008. New York tracks radiotherapy errors and keeps a good record of the mistakes that are made. During the time period that the researchers reviewed, they found that 621 incidents of radiation oncology errors had occurred. Causes of these mistakes included programming errors, diagnostic errors, administration errors and others. Some of the victims received overdoses of radiation that killed them within days of treatment, including a man who received radiation for tongue cancer and who had errant blasts sent into his brain stem and neck.

Advances in radiological medicine have helped people to live longer, but mistakes can be deadly. Doctors and hospitals may not be forthcoming about radiation oncology errors that have happened. A medical malpractice attorney may be able to uncover evidence of negligence to help clients to prove liability.