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Veteran Files Lawsuit against Pennsylvania VA Hospital

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Philadelphia, PASoldiers returning from duty often have to turn to VA hospitals for help with serious health problems. Yet some receive a lower standard of care and are left filing lawsuits alleging veteran medical malpractice.

One lawsuit reportedly filed against the Philadelphia VA Medical Center, Dr. Gary Kao, and the University of Pennsylvania alleges that the defendants erred when providing radiation therapy. The plaintiffs, five Iraq war veterans, say approximately 100 veterans are believed to have received improper radiation therapy from the defendants.

According to the lawsuit, patients underwent brachytherapy to treat their cancer. Brachytherapy involves the use of radioactive metal seeds that are placed inside the prostate via needles. Those seeds create radiation that is meant to attack and contain cancerous cells.

Reports indicate that Dr. Kao was investigated by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which found that of 114 patients treated in six years, only 16 procedures were done correctly. Incorrect procedures involved the use of weak radiation doses, overdoses in other areas of the body and seeds being inserted in the patient's bladder or rectum rather than the prostate. A report from the NRC found that Dr. Kao and others in his unit continued performing the procedure even after a device to measure the radiation in patients broke down, which prevented them from ensuring the work was performed properly.

Furthermore, the NRC found that staff in the cancer unit altered medical records so it would appear that the errors were part of the patient's treatment plan. The New York Times reported on 6/21/09 that in one case, Dr. Kao implanted 40 seeds in a patient's bladder by mistake and rewrote the surgical plan to make the mistake disappear. The patient underwent a second implant, which also failed, but the error was allegedly never reported.

One of the defendants, Barry Lackro, says his cancer has returned and is incurable. Other veterans underwent repeat implants or surgery to lessen damage caused by incorrectly performed procedures.

In 2008, Dr. Kao was reportedly removed from his position at the hospital.

According to the New York Times, Dr. Kao spoke before a Congressional panel and said that he "could have done better" with some implants but overall his patients received effective treatment. He further said that he always acted in the best interests of his patients. Furthermore, Dr. Kao said that implanting seeds outside the prostate was a recognized risk of the procedure.

As of the date of publication of the Times article, Dr. Kao had faced no medical malpractice lawsuits.

The Times reports that the Veterans Affairs radiation safety committee knew about some problems with the Philadelphia VA hospital prostate unit but did not act decisively on those issues. In March 2010, the NRC hit the Philadelphia VA Medical Center with more than $227,000 in fines.


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Posted by

My father was drafted in 1945 and spent his entire 18 months in a military hospital where he was given 2100 rems of radiation "therapy" for having a sore throat! He was also given many guinea pig inoculations along with millions of units of penicillin because he had open sore oozing from all of the radiation! His records were recovered with the help of a U.S. congressman! Malpractice!?

Posted by

On June 13th of this year my best friend of over 45 years past away. he was a marine and was suffering from liver failure. The VA gave him the run around, sent him home with open pick lines and he contracted sepsis, in most cases this could cause sever illness, but for someone without a functioning liver it's almost always fatal. Because of the actions of the VA Hospital in Pittsburgh, PA. He is gone. I Am A veteran myself so I know first hand the second rate care that most veterans receive. This has got to stop. Whether we lose are lives or we are physical or mental disabled, we made a decision to give ourselves up for OUR country so that others could enjoy the freedoms we helped provide. Please help put an end to this nightmare that most Vets are going through.

Posted by

We have a neighbor who is in the middle of a horror story similar to Gary C Webb's.
He started out in Clarksburg, WV VA hospital to get a hip replacement and they sent him to Pittsburgh. They replaced his hip there and he wound up with an infection.
They gave him a round of antibiotics and sent him home.
The infection never really went away, and he was in tremendous pain. They took him back in and opened him up, and the doctor said he never saw a worse hip infection.
Don't know if it was MRSA, but they put a spacer in him and sent him home. Meanwhile he is in tears from the pain constantly. They bring him back in and replaced the hip again and the doctor said she didn't think the infection was all gone yet. It wasn't. They had to open him back up again and they took the hip out AGAIN, and they say that they can't replace it again. They must have really screwed him up good.
They are against suing anyone, especially the VA, who in spite of the "treatment" he got, they love.
They say they are putting some thingamajig in him, and he'll either be in a wheelchair or crutches the rest of his life.
They are devastated.
If anyone knows of help they could get, I'd gladly pass it along to them.

Posted by

On Aug 31 of 2012 I was admitted to the Pittsburgh Pa VA hospital in Oakland for a left hip replacement.Within a couple of days it was infected.I spent over a week there before being sent to the Butler Va for rehab.They sent me home Oct 18 with the infection that I dressed myself.By the way;the water at VA in Pittsburgh had been shut off due to Legioners Disease in the water supply.One man died and the family filed a lawsuit that is now pending.Early Nov I was rushed to the local hospital and was there 5 days.The diagnoses was Mercia or Staff infection.I was discharged and sent to Pittsburgh VA and they removed my left hip Nov 8 or 9 and inserted a plastic spacer.After over a week I was sent back to Butler VA were I underwent 7 weeks of IV treatment 3 to 4 times a day;also did 5 weeks rehab.Again sent home this time with no hip on Dec 23.On Jan 8 I had a appointment at the VA in Pittsburgh to schedule the left hip to be replaced.They told me I needed to get a test done where they draw fluid from the hip to be sure the infection is still gone.I agreed to the test but was shocked to find out that the can not do the test until FEBRUARY 20.You have got to understand the pain I am now in and they think I can wait 7 more weeks.They infected me and I can't work,lost my job because of there mistake.I am now using a walker to get around and they will not even get me a wheelchair.If there is anyone being abused by the VA it is me.The way I fell about the VA now is that I would advertise for free just to let the public know how the government is;and I would put that in writing.Can you please take this case. Thank you


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