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Radiation Overexposure Cases: Silent But Deadly

Imagine going to the hospital for a routine CT scan…and coming out with unsightly bald patches. That’s what happened to a patient at Cedar Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. It was one of the most shocking radiation overexposure cases of the last decade.

In 2009, over 200 people received 8 times the normal dose of radiation during their scans at CSH. Why? Because employees didn’t program the machine correctly. Believe it or not, the hospital continued using the faulty machine for 18 months until a patient reported losing large clumps of hair. 

It was then that the hospital finally realized the machine had been doling out a person’s yearly limit of radiation with every test! Doctors assured the patients that they had just a small risk of developing cancer. But even still, the radiation affected the victims as it caused baldness and made their skin red and irritated. And who knows what problems they may encounter later on.

Doctor examines patient's x-ray scan.

Radiation Overexposure Cases: How Do They Happen?

The patients’ skin wasn’t the only thing irritated in that particular radiation overexposure case. Both the patients and radiology experts expressed their shock and indignation and that there was no excuse for the error to continue for so long.

Unfortunately, there currently isn’t much regulation when it comes to medical radiation. Dr. Richard Semelka, a radiology expert at UNC Hospitals, even referred to it as “the wild west”.

Radiation helps detect many health problems. It’s also an effective cancer treatment. That’s why hospitals are using it more and more. But that’s also why there’s an increase in radiation overexposure cases.

Certain circumstances can lead to a patient getting more radiation than necessary. Here are some examples:

  • A hospital doesn’t train its staff to use radiation-emitting machines properly.
  • Staff doesn’t calculate radiation doses properly. For example, radiation can help a patient battle cancer. But the patient should only receive the minimum dosage needed, not more.  
  • A patient receives radiation to the wrong spot on the body. 
  • Staff doesn’t document the radiation a patient receives. This leads to radiation overdose. 
  • A hospital doesn’t repair equipment when needed, or test it after it’s repaired. 
  • There’s a manufacturing problem with the radiation machine. 
  • Staff fail to follow safety guidelines that protect patients from radiation during testing. 

Common Effects Of Radiation Overexposure Cases

The tragedy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki taught us a lot about the gruesome effects of radiation overexposure. Too much radiation increases a person’s risk of cancer. Large amounts can end a person’s life in mere days. 

One of the most notorious radiation overexposure cases in recent years involved a man whose family received $15 million in damages after he passed away from radiation overdose. Zacarias Chichioco Jr thought that radiation would cure his lung cancer, but it ended up taking his life. 

A programming error in treatment planning software led to a major mistake. Subsequently Chichioco received 2.5 times the appropriate amount of radiation. Because of this he had skin burns, hearing loss, paralysis, and hallucinations. The excessive radiation weakened him so much that he quickly succumbed to the cancer and now his family suffers his loss.

Chichioco’s family was able to file a successful lawsuit against the software makers and the hospital that treated him. 

Radiation overexposure effects can vary. But they sometimes include:

  • Hair loss
  • Skin burns
  • Cataracts
  • Hearing loss
  • Skin redness
  • Scarring and disfigurement
  • Paralysis
  • Increased risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease.
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness and disorientation
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Bloody vomit and stools from internal bleeding
Woman experiences symptoms from radiation overexposure.

Can I Sue For Radiation Exposure?

You can sue for radiation exposure when the following is true:

  • The radiation exposure happened because someone was negligent. (Your doctor, hospital staff, a manufacturer).  
  • The exposure caused you harm, pain or suffering. 
  • You have evidence that proves that the radiation overdose is the cause of your medical condition. 
  • You will file a lawsuit within the statute of limitations for your state. (There’s a time limit to filing. It’s usually two years after you are harmed). 

If you or a loved one received a radiation overdose, we may be able to help. Hampton & King has 60+ years of experience handling radiation overexposure cases and other medical malpractice lawsuits. We provide compassionate, client-centered services. Let us help you navigate the turbulent waters of radiation exposure and its aftermath. 

You don’t have to go through this alone! If you were exposed to excess radiation due to a doctor’s or product manufacturer’s mistake, contact our lawyers today. You may be entitled to monetary damages. A settlement can cover medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Schedule a free consultation here