Last year I wrote about a “rogue” VA hospital and the large number of veterans that received a new treatment for prostate cancer. That treatment, Brachytherapy is a new technique to treat Prostate Cancer that was utilized from 2002 to 2008 at the Philadelphia Veterans’ Hospital. In the procedure, small metal seeds are permanently injected into the prostate with needles. The seeds are so small that they are approximately the size of a grain of rice. Nevertheless, no matter how small these seeds may be, many veterans have experienced tremendous pain as a result of botched brachytherapy procedures performed at the Philadelphia V.A. Hospital. In fact, 92 out of 116 veterans that were treated over the past six years received incorrect dosages—significantly less than what was needed, while others received excessive amounts of the radiation treatment to nearby tissue and organs.
Now, several medical malpractice suits have been filed against the hospital and Dr. Gary Kao, the doctor responsible for administering the treatments. The malpractice suits were filed in federal court by several veterans including Richard Mitchell, James Armstrong, John Berry, Barry Lackro and Donald Pepper, all of whom say that Dr. Kao has caused them tremendous suffering as a result of his botched brachytherapy procedures. In fact, Lackro’s cancer has returned and has become incurable.
Investigators from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission began investigating complaints about bad brachytherapy procedures and discovered that some patients received radiation doses that were too weak, or where the metal seeds were inserted into the wrong locations, such as the bladder or rectum. However, the radiation treatments continued for an additional year after the federal investigation. Eventually, Dr. Kao was relieved of his position at the hospital and the cancer unit was shut down. The men who have filed suit are but a few of the approximately 98 men that investigators believe were affected by the brachytherapy treatments. Veterans who believe they were a victim of botched brachytherapy treatments must first file a claim with Veteran’s Affairs before filing a lawsuit. The VA then looks at the case and can approve or deny the claim. So far, the VA has rejected 12 of 38 claims but those rejected can still file a federal lawsuit.