The Story of How a NY Times Reporter – Walt Bogdanich – Has Made a Real Difference in Medical Device Radiation Safety

This post was authored by Brian Nash and posted to The Eye Opener on June 10th, 2010.

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No doubt we all have our opinions about the news media. Such opinions are not always positive. Maybe it’s the proliferation of talking heads, 24-hour news, clips of news reporters shoving microphones in the face of someone who has just lost a loved one or camped outside the home of some person so that every breath the target takes is reported on ad nauseam. Then there are those who truly seem to make a difference. An article in today’s New York Times brought one such ‘difference maker’ to mind.

Over the course of the last several months, an investigative reporter for the Times, Walt Bogdanich, wrote a series of chilling and revealing articles on the horrors of radiation medical devices, which when used improperly by unskilled or careless individuals, had caused serious, life-altering (and even life-ending) injuries to patients.

Bogdanich wrote a series called “The Radiation Boom,” which was the subject of an article posted here on February 2, 2010. On January 26, 2010, this reporter’s article entitled “As Technology Surges, Radiation Safeguards Lag” brought to light chilling tales of multiple victims of misused radiation medical devices.  Over-radiation by medical personnel inadequately trained in the use of new and more powerful radiation devices such as CT machines seemed to be a common denominator in these horrible clinical vignettes. Three days before “The Radiation Boom” article, on January 23, 2010, Bogdanich’s piece entitled “Radiation Offers New Cures, and Ways to Do Harm” reported on the harrowing tale of Scott Jerome-Parks:

As Scott Jerome-Parks lay dying, he clung to this wish: that his fatal radiation overdose — which left him deaf, struggling to see, unable to swallow, burned, with his teeth falling out, with ulcers in his mouth and throat, nauseated, in severe pain and finally unable to breathe — be studied and talked about publicly so that others might not have to live his nightmare.

Another outstanding health reporter, Liz Szabo of USA Today, picked-up on Bogdanich’s storyline, and reported in an article dated January 31, 2010, that NIH was implementing procedures for its doctors to record just how much radiation was being received by its patients – to avoid over-radiation exposures. On February 10th, we posted news of action by the FDA taken the day before in which the agency unveiled an initiative to reduce unnecessary radiation exposure from medical imaging. The ‘opening credit’ – so to speak – for this late awakening by the FDA was duly given to Walt Bogdanich. Our featured post of March 1, 2010 next reported on Capitol Hill hearings of the prior week involving industry leaders seeking key answers to what needed to be done to correct this situation and set guidelines for the proper use of these medical devices. On April 27th,  we once again reported on the new FDA initiative to reduce unnecessary radiation exposure from medical imaging.

Who is responsible for bringing about this public and governmental awareness of radiation-related injuries due to ignorance or malfeasance of medical personnel? There can only be one conclusion – Walt Bogdanich.

Well the story is not quite over. In today’s New York Times, he is at it once again. In the Times Health section, Bogdanich reports – in an article entitled “Safety Features Planned for Radiation Machines” -

Manufacturers of radiation therapy equipment said at a patient-safety conference here Wednesday that within the next two years their new equipment and the software that runs it would include fail-safe features to help reduce harmful radiation overdoses and other mistakes.

Having followed this series of reports and the relatively rapid-response actions taken by governmental agencies,medical institutions and private industry since its inception, I have been awed by how one man, Walt Bogdanich, has brought about not only an awareness but real change in our society and the medical industry. While we all hope to make a difference in the lives of others while we walk this earth, it is inspiring and motivational to witness a real-life “difference maker” in action.

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