Mother fights radiation over-exposure


The radiation protection bill has been on a roll this year, winning bi-partisan and sometimes unanimous votes. It passed the Assembly Business and Professions Committee 11-0, in part because of emotional testimony from a California mom.

"Our peace of mind about the health of our first born child was taken from us that day," radiation victim's mother Carrie Roth said.

The Humboldt County resident told lawmakers why hospitals and their CT scans need to be better regulated.

Her baby son, Jacoby was left in the scanner for an hour, instead of a minute in January 2008. He survived but was left 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," she said.

You might think that was an isolated incident, but just last year, 260 radiation over-exposure cases came to light at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

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

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

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

  • Notify patients and their doctors of any exposure.
  • Report 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," Bob Achermann from the California Radiological Society said.

Like so many other radiation over-exposure 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," Roth said.

The California overdoses prompted the FDA to issue a nationwide mandate for CT facilities to check their machines. Problems were discovered in two other Los Angeles-area hospitals and another one in Alabama.

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