An announcement by a medical facility in Hamilton, Ontario, has raised concerns among a small set of cancer patients – and emphasized how easily medical errors can occur. The notice, issued by the Juravinski Cancer Centre (JCC), warned that up to 25 women may have received faulty radiation treatment in 2017 and 2018. While malpractice is not known to have occurred, the event was a reminder to medical malpractice lawyers that errors happen every day, with potentially catastrophic results.

What does the announcement say?

 The JCC announcement, issued January 2, states that “some patients treated for cervical cancer at Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) in 2017 and 2018 may not have received the intended treatment when a very specific form of radiation therapy was administered.” The error affected only patients receiving brachytherapy (BT), which is used to combat cervical, prostate, breast and skin cancer.

“This follows the discovery of an issue with the equipment used to deliver brachytherapy,” the release continues. The equipment has since been replaced.

“We have apologized to all the patients regarding this matter,” Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) President and Chief Executive Officer Rob MacIsaac is quoted as saying. “We also understand the anxiety this likely causes them and their families. Our physicians, nurses and other members of our teams at the JCC, and across HHS, care deeply about our patients and distraught that patients might be affected. We are working diligently to ensure the integrity of our services moving forward.”

What dangers did the mistake pose?

 As all medical malpractice lawyers know, medication errors can cause catastrophic injuries that fundamentally affect a person’s ability to enjoy life. While there are no reports that the patients affected by this error have suffered adverse outcomes, the error was not without risks.

According to Dr. Curtis Caldwell, chief scientist at the Radiation Safety Institute of Canada (RSIC), who spoke with CBC News Hamilton, radiation in the wrong location is dangerous for two reasons.

First, the patient fails to receive necessary treatment to the area affected by cancer.

Second, the radiation may kill non-cancerous cells. Though negative impacts are rare, certain areas of the body are more susceptible to radiation than others.

“Distance is a really crucial thing in this case so you would hope that there wouldn’t be a terribly high dose to the vagina walls, but there (was) certainly potential for damage to those cells,” Caldwell said.

Contact an Ontario medical malpractice lawyer

 Not every medical error amounts to medical malpractice. However, if you’ve been injured in a medical setting, contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers today to arrange a free no-obligation consultation. Our team of experienced medical malpractice lawyers can assess the viability of your claim and provide guidance and you navigate the road to recovery.


Image credit: Sudip Bhunia/Wikimedia Commons



Greg Neinstein