Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Rep. Henry Waxman
A House committee listens to doctors, experts and patients on radiation exposure
Earlier this month, I wrote about the FDA's announcement [http://www.justmeans.com/FDA-Aims-Crack-Down-on-Radiation-Overexposure/8581.html] that manufacturers of medical scanning equipment might need to incorporate new controls in order to prevent patients from receiving too much radiation exposure. CT scans, for example, emit as much as 400 times the amount of radiation as a regular X-ray.
At the time, the director of the FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health, Dr. Jeffrey Shuren, said, "The amount of radiation Americans are exposed to from medical imaging has dramatically increased over the past 20 years. The goal of FDA's initiative is to support the benefits associated with medical imaging while minimizing the risks."
This week, the issue received a hearing in Congress, where lawmakers talked with experts about how to address radiation exposure in patients. The hearing by the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Health was called “Medical Radiation: An Overview of the Issues.” Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chair of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, opened the hearing, saying,
“As we move forward, I would hope that we can all agree on at least two basic premises. First is the enormous medical value of our various radiologic technologies. I mentioned this earlier, but want to underscore the point again: Both diagnostic and therapeutic radiology interventions save lives. We want them. We need them.
Second is the obligation to ensure that these interventions are as safe as they can be – and that everything is being done to make that a reality. Patients are entitled to nothing less.
With these principles in mind, I believe our job today is simple and straight forward – to understand how to lower the risks associated with radiation in medicine to make it as safe as possible without reducing its many benefits to patients and researchers.”
Testifying at the hearing were a number of doctors, health officials, and experts, from organizations like the American Society for Radiation Oncology, the American College of Radiology, and the American Society of Radiologic Technologists. Also testifying were patients who had experience with radiation therapy. Suzanne Lindley, for example, said radiation saved her after she was sure her cancer would kill her:
“Together, these advanced radiation therapy technologies have allowed me to watch my daughters grow up - to see them walk across the stage for their graduations, to start college, to become adults. Today they are 19 and 22. These technologies have also allowed me to walk hand in hand with my husband and will, hopefully, allow us to share our rocking chair days together.”
But just as compelling was the testimony of James and Donna Parks, who told the committee about the ordeal of their son, who died after accidentally being over-exposed to radiation in a hospital. James Parks pleaded with lawmakers to implement safeguards that might have protected his son: “We ask that medical equipment manufactures of deadly machines develop fail-safe interactive expert systems that can interact with human technicians to reduce, or eliminate human errors. ... It is outrageous that any untrained and unskilled personnel can get anywhere near such dangerous equipment.”
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Posted by Sara Libby at 1:18 AM