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Improper Radiation Treatment at VA Hospital

Two weeks ago we posted on the medical negligence at a Veteran’s Affair hospital in St. Louis that exposed veterans in several states (including Illinois) to hepatitis and HIV. That incident is only one in a string of errors at VA facilities across the country.

The Philadelphia Enquirer discussed another example of inadequate medical care at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center. Over a six year period, the facility had radiation therapy problems, giving the incorrect dosage to nearly over 85% of the patients receiving the treatment.

The radiation was part of a prostate-cancer treatment. Known as brachytherapy, the procedure involves the implantation of tiny radioactive seeds into the prostate gland to destroy cancer over a period of months. When done incorrectly, however, the radioactive seeds may eventually destroy healthy tissue while leaving the cancer intact.

Five of those veterans have recently filed suit for the substandard care they received. For some, their cancer has become incurable, and all five men report severe bleeding caused by the radiation. Earlier this year, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission punished the Philadelphia VA Medical Center, fining it $227,500 for which it classified as a “total breakdown” in its radiation program.

Problems at veteran’s hospitals occur with alarming frequency. The recent incidents in Philadelphia and St. Louis highlight the need for increased oversight and action to ensure that medical malpractice at these facilities is stopped.

In addition, Brachytherapy problems are an all-too-frequent form of medical error. Our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys at Levin & Perconti won a $1.25 million settlement against the University of Chicago Hospitals for a botched brachytherapy treatment. In that case a 70 year old patient with prostate cancer suffered radiation burns on her rectal wall and lost all bladder control due to the improper placement of radiation seeds.

Be sure to contact a medical malpractice lawyer if you suspect you have been the victim of similar radiation injury. Also, all veterans should be sure to aggressively protect their right to proper treatment at the VA hospitals where they seek care.