Radiotherapy may damage healthy organs

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 March, 2008, 12:00am

Radiotherapy on a relatively healthy patient would be damaging and irreversible, Medical Association president Choi Kin said yesterday.

'I have not the faintest idea how this could have happened,' Dr Choi said in response to the latest medical blunder, in which biopsy specimens of two patients at Tung Wah Hospital were mixed up.

It resulted in one patient unnecessarily receiving radiotherapy and another patient receiving radiotherapy 10 months after being diagnosed for prostate cancer.

'Radiotherapy can be very damaging to internal organs and can lead to burning of the skin. This should not happen at all. It is a relatively serious blunder to have radiotherapy for a person who does not have cancer,' Dr Choi said.

Tim Pang Hung-cheong, a patients' rights advocate for the Society for Community Organisation, said: 'Because the patient's identity is very basic information, hospitals should get it right.'

'We hope hospitals will look into details and find out whether there are loopholes in procedures or a person failing to follow existing procedure,' he said.

Medical sector legislator Kwok Ka-ki said it was fortunate that because prostate cancer was a slow-growing cancer, the health of the patient was not compromised by delayed treatment.

As to the patient who received unnecessary radiotherapy, Dr Kwok said improvements in radiotherapy techniques meant patients would rarely suffer from common complications.

Secretary for Food and Health York Chow Yat-ngok expressed grave concern and said the Hospital Authority should investigate the incident and suggest remedial measures.