On July 31, 2010 the New York Times published a report of hundreds of patients across several states who have been suffering the after effects of radiation overdose after a CT scan of the head. Most of these people suffered hair loss that matches the exact width of the scan. Many of the victims have also reported other symptoms of excessive radiation like nausea and vomiting. Apparently, the computer system that controls the amount of radiation emitted in the devices that are currently allows the operator wise latitude in setting the intensity of the exposure. Therefore, the consumers are being subjected to a high risk to harmful effects of radiation without their knowledge.
Furthermore, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials have received reports of radiation damage caused by CT scans and have done nothing. State regulators seem to powerless because the against whom victims filed complaints hospitals have claimed that they did not make any errors, thus indicating that they exposed their patients to dangerous levels of radiation on purpose without the patients’ knowledge and consent. In one case a hospital in California had increased the radiation exposure 13 times greater than the manufacturer’s safe-level recommendation in order to get clearer pictures.
This situation is an outrage and is clearly a case of criminal negligence on a massive scale. It is also a violation of patients’ rights to arbitrarily cause such dangerous exposure without their knowledge and consent and without proper medical justification such as eradicating malignant tumors. The fact that it is happening on such a wide scale with no government intervention is stunning. What is even more shameful is that the named hospital officials are refusing to take responsibility for their assaults. The Associated Press reported that several hospitals in California stated that they have been using GE Health’s dosage level recommendations in the cases where the CT scans caused radiation damage. Finally, the FDA’s response to all of this chaos was to issue an alert to all hospitals to check their scanner radiation settings, which is stupid since the hospitals are denying that there were any mistakes and that the technicians used the settings set by the radiology department heads. Certainly, the fact that there are so many incidents of radiation poisoning in so many different hospitals suggests that the problem rests with the design of the device and with a lack of understanding among decision makers as to what is a safe versus risky level of radiation. Presently, radiological experts are dumbfounded and government officials are ineffectual.
In conclusion, we have a new scandal that seems to be receiving very little attention in the press with no palpable response from the public or from government officials. Until a couple of days ago people believed that CT scans were safe and used less radiation than X-rays. Now we are finding out that the opposite is true and that thousands of people are needlessly suffering hair loss, nausea and vomiting and the possibility of developing brain cancer. The hospital managers are telling the investigative reporters that they were either following manufacturer’s recommendations, or that they made choices in certain cases to increase the radiation dosage to get clearer images. In this writer’s professional opinion, it seems that the culprits to a large extent are the management personnel at GE Health and the officials at the FDA. Regarding the former, there apparently aren’t sufficient safeguards in the programming by which the technicians set the level of radiation exposure. Concerning the later, the FDA officials are refusing to establish safe radiation parameters and order a recall of the CT scanning devices to cause GE and other manufacturers to prevent technicians from being able to go beyond the acceptable dose range. Moreover, we need to have a legal standard of patient safety which prohibits over exposing the patients with criminal penalties for non-compliance.
Other Internet Media Sources