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$15.25 Million Settles Radiation Overdose Case

October 9, 2013
Written by: , Filed in: Chest Radiology
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The family of a Hawaiian man who was allegedly exposed to excessive doses of radiation during cancer therapy has settled a lawsuit for $15.25 million.

Zacarias Chichioco Jr. received about two and a half times the appropriate amount of radiation because of a software programming error, according to the lawsuit. His family sued Varian Medical Systems, which made the Eclipse system that delivered the radiation therapy, and doctors from the Pacific Cancer Institute, where Chichioco received the treatments. The institute is in Wailuku on the island of Maui.

Chichioco died May 19, 2011, of lung cancer. He was 45. Michael Tateishi, an attorney for the family, said Chichioco was weakened by the radiation overdose:

He didn’t want to see the doctors. He didn’t want any treatment. He didn’t want to get treatment for it because he lost trust for the medical system.

Tateishi was quoted in an Associated Press story originally reported by the Maui News.

The News said the insurers of two radiation oncologists would pay $1 million each. The physicians are Bobby C. Baker, MD, founder, president, and medical director of the institute, and Daryl Y. Makishi, DO, formerly at the institute and now at the West Penn Allegheny Health System in the Pittsburgh area. Tateishi said Varian would pay the other $13.25 million.

Chichioco was diagnosed with cancer in February 2008. He was to receive 35 radiation treatments, but began having side effects, Tateishi said. He had pain swallowing, suffered hallucinations, hearing loss, and paralysis on the left side of his face, and underwent skin grafts, the lawyer said. The lawsuit alleged that Chichioco received more than twice the appropriate dose of radiation during the first 21 treatments.

The lawsuit said Varian discovered a programming error in its treatment planning software in 2007 and updated the software used by the institute, but did not provide notes to the institute about how to avoid the programming error.

Dr. Baker said no other patients were affected. “As soon as I learned about this, I immediately instigated a thorough review of every case that had been treated here,” he said. “We found that in every other case, the prescription was absolutely correct.”

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