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ASTRO Responds to NY Times Article on Radiation Errors

January 29, 2010
Written by: , Filed in: Interventional Radiology, Practice Management
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The American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) responded earlier this week to a New York Times article reporting on errors made during radiation therapy. Focusing on radiation accidents in the state of New York, the Jan. 24 Times story warned readers that radiation therapy, when administered incorrectly, can kill and maim patients. The story went on to say that it’s impossible to track the number of such accidents in the U.S. because no one government agency oversees radiation therapy, some states don’t require accidents to be reported, and no central resource exists for collecting data.

Astro countered the claims Jan. 26 in a letter to the editor, which began by saying that “no medical error is acceptable.” Still, the numbers in the Times story are misleading, the statement continued. The article cited 621 radiation mistakes but didn’t mention the context. According to ASTRO estimates, roughly half a million New Yorkers received 13.6 million daily radiation therapy treatments, meaning that mistakes occurred only .0046 percent of the time.

“All treatments pose risks and patients should discuss them with their doctors,” the letter concludes. “Radiation therapy is a tool no different than a knife in the hands of a surgeon. It should be used only by those with appropriate training and board certification.”

Related Seminar: Informed Consent: Practices to Improve Patient Education, Boost Compliance & Keep You Out of Court


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