Cancer survivors who have undergone radiation and chemotherapy to treat the disease sometimes say that the cure is worse than the condition. Medical professionals use radiation therapies for more than just cancer treatment, however – and sometimes, they use too much. An overdose of radiation can lead to internal burn injuries, and (ironically) to the increased chance of developing cancer later on.
Is it a matter of medical negligence?
Radiation therapy kills off cancerous cells. It can also kill off healthy tissue surrounding those cancerous cells. This is more likely to occur if:
- The radiation tech is inexperienced or undertrained.
- The radiation is applied to the wrong spot.
- The radiation is applied for too long.
- Medical personnel fail to double check dosage amounts or patients’ medical history.
- X-rays and scans were used too frequently, exposing the patient to additional amounts of radiation.
For a person whose immune system is already compromised by intense cancer treatments, a radiation burn can be even more dangerous. Not only are they excruciatingly painful, but they may also allow an infection to set it. In some cases, vital organs (like the lungs or liver) may be permanently scarred as a result of the burns, and can cause a lifetime of pain as a result.
In order to make a claim for medical malpractice in Maryland, you must be able to prove that the doctor owed you a duty of care and breached that duty, which in turn led to your injuries. Your injury may be compensable if:
- The machine’s hardware or software was defective, thus overdosing you with radiation.
- The design of the machine was fundamentally flawed.
- The technician failed to properly calibrate the machine before using it on you.
- The technician made an error during the course of your treatment.
- The prescribing oncologist made an error on your chart, or miscalculated the dosage.
In some cases, the radiation overdose is the result of “off label” use of an instrument. A linear accelerator is used when doctors need to give radiation treatments to a large part of the body; its use is broader. However, in an effort to cut costs, some hospitals and clinics attempt to modify these machines for more precise use (called “stereotactic radiosurgery”) instead of using the appropriate tools.
If you have been overexposed to radiation, or have suffered a radiation burn as the result of medical negligence, you do have legal options. Plaxen Adler Muncy, P.A. has fought on behalf of the injured in Maryland for more than 35 years. To make an appointment with an experienced Maryland medical malpractice lawyer from our firm, please call 410-730-7737 or fill out our contact form.