New Pinpoint Radiation Treatment Leads To Brain Injury Across The Nation


Posted on 31st December 2010 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

The New York Times Wednesday did a powerful, and frightening, Page One story about state-of-the-art radiation treatment gone awry.

The story begins by talking about Marci Faber, who went to Evanston Hospital in Illinois in 2009 to receive high-density, pinpoint radiation to alleviate pain that was coming from a nerve at the base of her brain. Faber is now in a nursing home, “nearly comatose, unable to speak, eat or walk, leaving her husband to care for their three young daughters,” according to The Times.

And Faber wasn’t the only patient to suffer such damage after undergoing stereotactic radiosurgery, known as SRS. This technology is meant to treat tumors and other problems in the brain and spinal cord, since it is highly targeted and therefore doesn’t damage healthy tissue.

In Evanston problems calibrating the machine that administers SRS — a linear accelerator redesigned so it could do the new type of radiation treatment — led to tragic circumstances for Faber and two other patients. And there have been similar cases around the country. This accelerator is made by Varian Medical Systems.

Linear accelerators have been retrofitted with a cylindrical device, called a cone, which focuses radiation for SRS. But in some cases, operator error has led to patients getting radiation overdoses. In Evanston, hospital officials said that their staff had precisely followed Varian’s instructions, expecting patients to be safe. Obviously, they weren’t.

The Times explains in much detail the saga of problems with the retrofitted Varian linear accelerator. But the bottom lines seems to be this: The Food and Drug Administration should reconsider the hasty approval it granted for the retrofitted accelerator and mistakes involving the complex equipment should be reported in a central database.

Worker Gets $11.7 Million Verdict For Head Injuries During Hotel Construction


Posted on 31st December 2010 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

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A worker who repeatedly hit his head while working on a San Rafael, Calif., hotel was awarded $11.7 million, which reportedly is the biggest personal injury verdict ever in Marin County.

David Travis, an elevator mechanic hurt in 2007 when he was working on the Extended Stay hotel, was awarded the money from a Marin Superior Court jury after three days of deliberations. 

But it is possible that Travis could only wind up with $9.9 million, since the jury found that the general contractor, Bison Builders of Spokane, Wash., as liable for just 75 percent of the damages. 

At the time Travis, of Oakland, Calif., was hurt he was 38 and was making $150,000 a year. At the trial, Travis’s attorney charged that Bison Builders made Travis and other workers carry parts under scaffolding with a clearance of only 5 feet, 7 inches, which is more than a foot lower than is required by the state.

Travis was 6-foot-1 when he was wearing his helmet, and he did voice complaints about working conditions at the hotel site, to no avail. As a result, he repeatedly struck his head while working. He got herniated discs, was nearly paralyzed and had to undergo surgery.

As a result of his injuries, Travis now is suffering from neurological pain, burning and numbness. He is unable to do routine physical tasks, has to wear diapers and, according to his attorney, will have to be confined to a wheelchair as he gets older.


Hospitals To Mental Patients: You Sue Us, We Bill You


Posted on 27th December 2010 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

 This turnaround it not really fair play: When you’re a hospital being sued by a mental patient, you turn around and demand that the patient reimburse you for his many years of inpatient care.

The New York Times chronicled this disturbing phenomenon in a Page One story Saturday that had the headline “When Mental Patients Pursue Damages, Hospitals Send Bill.”

Here’s the deal. Daniel Langevin, then 35, had been in the Rochester Psychiatric Center for years. In 1995 he got deathly ill there, and was discovered unconscious with a near-fatal infection in his brain and other organs.

Langevin sued New York State, which ran his hospital. But venerable New York reacted by ordering Langevin to pay it $1.7 million for his decade of treatment for his mental illness. 

And guess what? A judge agreed with the state, and Langevin wound up not getting anything. It’s a disgrace.

“For patients in state-run mental hospitals — people too ill to live on their own and too poor to pay for their care — the state can drain court-awarded damages, effectively deducting the cost of their stays in the very hospitals that failed or abused them,” The Times wrote.  

In New York, they call that chutzpah.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s office declined to comment on the case. It should be ashamed of itself, especially since The Times claims that New York has a reputation for “squeezing” patients who sue for damages.

Langevin’s case is not the only one that The Times talks about. Here is another one that may get your blood boiling: A 20-year-old woman was raped at a Staten Island, N.Y., psychiatric facility in 1992. She was awarded $250,000 six years later, but a judge deducted $101,000 from it. That money was to reimburse the state for the services it had rendered to the woman, the rape victim.

According to The Times, the judge said “that a hospital might be negligent on some days while providing valuable service on others.”

That’s the kind of logic that would make sense in an insane asylum.