VA Hospital Botches Prostate Treatments, Report
Today’s New York Times reports: “A unit in Philadelphia operating with virtually no outside scrutiny botched 92 of 116 prostate cancer treatments over a span of more than six years.” Dr. Gary D. Kao, according to the report, ran a “rogue” cancer unit which covered up botched procedures in which radioactive “seeds” intended for the cancerous prostate landed in the bladder or near the rectum. Dr. Kao’s team rewrote treatment plans, according to the Times, to cover up his bad aim.
“For patients with prostate cancer, it is a common surgical procedure: a doctor implants dozens of radioactive seeds to attack the disease. But when Dr. Gary D. Kao treated one patient at the veterans’ hospital in Philadelphia, his aim was more than a little off.”
Most of the seeds, 40 in all, landed in the patient’s healthy bladder, not the prostate.
It was a serious mistake, and under federal rules, regulators investigated. But Dr. Kao, with their consent, made his mistake all but disappear.
He simply rewrote his surgical plan to match the number of seeds in the prostate, investigators said.
The revision may have made Dr. Kao look better, but it did nothing for the patient, who had to undergo a second implant. It failed, too, resulting in an unintended dose to the rectum. Regulators knew nothing of this second mistake because no one reported it.
Two years later, in 2005, Dr. Kao rewrote another surgical plan after putting half the seeds in the wrong organ. Once again, regulators did not object.
Had the government responded more aggressively, it might have uncovered a rogue cancer unit at the hospital, one that operated with virtually no outside scrutiny and botched 92 of 116 cancer treatments over a span of more than six years — and then kept quiet about it, according to interviews with investigators, government officials and public records.