Two nurses -- described by Fields as very experienced and highly trained -- accidentally sent the woman home with a chemotherapy pump that administered the powerful drug over four hours instead of four days, as was prescribed. Fields said that there was no evidence of negligence on the part of the nurses and that they double-checked the pump before sending the patient home as per hospital policy.
"These were not people who were cutting corners," he said, adding that the two nurses had met with and apologized to the family members -- who had requested the woman not be identified -- and Fields said the family "understood this was a mistake; it was an accident."
Liberal health critic Laurie Blakeman agreed that funding and staffing issues were not a factor.
"This tragic accident just goes to demonstrate how dangerous chemotherapy chemicals are to the human body," said Mike Adams, a consumer health advocate and frequent critic of conventional cancer therapies. "Chemotherapy is poison," he said, "and if highly-experienced nurses can make a simple error like this that kills cancer patients, then who is safe from chemotherapy?"
"I think it's a tragedy for the family and the staff that were involved," she said. "I'm glad to see the cancer board is taking all steps to try and prevent a recurrence of this."
Fields said that the board and the family of the woman were now worried that patients might be deterred from chemotherapy by the incident. To avoid a similar catastrophe in the future, the hospital has made a number of treatment changes, including keeping patients attached to a drug pump in the hospital for at least an hour before being sent home and triple-checking drug pumps.
Adams added, "The idea that dripping poison into a person's bloodstream is 'treatment' for any disease is pure junk science based on long-outdated medical myths. All patients who are subjected to chemotherapy are harmed by it... every single one of them. The way to treat cancer is to support the patient's innate healing potential, not to destroy it with synthetic chemicals that can literally kill you if administered in the wrong dose."