Doc couldn’t hit the broad side of a prostate

June 30, 2009

I’m starting to understand why some of us don’t trust doctors.

The AP reports:

A doctor accused of botching dozens of prostate cancer surgeries at a Veterans Administration hospital admitted Monday that he sometimes missed his target when implanting radioactive seeds, leaving patients with incorrect dosages.

But Dr. Gary D. Kao called the mistakes commonplace in aiming seeds at the walnut-sized prostate, which sits near the bladder and rectum, and he steadfastly refused to become a scapegoat for the scandal at the VA Medical Center in Philadelphia.

[…]

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has found that 92 of 116 men treated in the hospital’s brachytherapy program received incorrect doses of the radiation seeds, often because they landed in nearby organs or surrounding tissue rather than the prostate. Kao performed the majority of the procedures under a VA contract with the University of Pennsylvania, where he was on staff.

The NYTimes went high with this tidbit:

[Kao] said he was voluntarily appearing before the committee, led by Senator Arlen Specter, Democrat of Pennsylvania, to “correct some very serious false allegations in recent publications about me, most notably The New York Times.”

And further:

The Times’s examination of the prostate cancer unit at the hospital also found that the errors resulted from a systemwide regulatory failure, in which none of the safeguards intended to protect veterans from poor medical care had worked.

Dr. Kao did not deny placing large numbers of seeds outside the prostate, but he said investigators were wrong to single him out. “It’s a recognized risk of the procedure,” he told the panel.

AP:

Under questioning from Sen. Arlen Specter, Kao acknowledged that he never informed patients when he missed the prostate or delivered insufficient doses.

Which is maybe why, according to a Times photo caption, Specter got Kao to hug a former patient!

I’m not sure what to make of the above, except that I need to read more Gary Schwitzer.

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