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CT-scan bill passes Calif. Assembly committee

June 29, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Emotional testimony in the state capitol as radiation victims and their loved ones urged lawmakers Tuesday to clamp down on California hospitals and regulate CT scan testing.The Radiation Protection Bill has been on a roll this year, winning bipartisan and sometimes unanimous votes. It passed the latest hurdle Tuesday, the California State Assembly Committee Business, Professions and Consumer Protection, 11 to 0, in part because of emotional testimony from a California mom.

Carrie Roth from Humboldt County told lawmakers why hospitals and their CT scans need to be better regulated.

Her baby son, Jacoby, in January 2008 was left in a CT scanner for an hour, instead of a minute. He came out alive, but red, with a line across his face, as if burned from too much radiation.

"What should have been a brief and routine diagnostic procedure ended up being a tragic event that has forever changed our family," said Roth.

You might think that was an isolated incident, but just last year, 260 radiation overexposure cases came to light at L.A.'s Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

After three scans and unexplainable hair loss, Michael Heuser was the first Cedars patient to call attention to calibration problems with scanners that use radiation.

"By some estimates, I was exposed to more than 50,000 chest X-rays to my head," said Heuser.

Prompted by the Cedars-Sinai case, State Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) is pushing his proposal that requires California hospitals to:

  • Notify patients and their doctors of any exposure
  • Report problems to the state faster
  • Record the doses in the patient's medical record

While radiologists support greater caution, they want to make sure the regulations aren't so restrictive that they scare away or prevent patients from using radiation as a treatment.

"I want to make sure the reporting requirements are consistent with federal law and don't require over-reporting of inadvertent events that do not cause patient harm," said Bob Achermann, executive director, California Radiological Society.

Like so many other radiation overexposure patients in California, little Jacoby faces an uncertain future, a future that breaks his mom's heart.

"He's likely to develop cataracts in his eyes and his chances of getting cancer are significantly increased," said Carrie Roth.

The California overdoses prompted the Food and Drug Administration to issue a nationwide mandate for CT facilities to check their machines. Problems were discovered in two other L.A.-area hospitals and another one in Alabama.


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