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Bad medicine

Radiation overdose kills teen cancer patient

Thursday, October 19, 2006 by: Jessica Fraser
Tags: bad medicine, radiation, cancer treatments


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(NewsTarget) A 16-year-old Scottish girl -- who was accidentally given at least 17 overdoses of radiation at the Beatson Oncology center in Glasgow during treatment for a brain tumor earlier this year -- died yesterday in her family's home.

Lisa Norris was diagnosed with a brain tumor in October last year, and received an initial four-block treatment of chemotherapy at Yorkhill Hospital before being referred to the Beatson Oncology center for treatment in January.

When doctors at the Beatson center delivered the news to Lisa that her tumor was gone following her radiation treatment, they also told her that a human error had resulted in a severe radiation overdose that had been administered at least 17 times. The overdoses left Lisa with burns on the back of her neck and head, and doctors warned that the mistake could cause long-term brain damage, paralysis and premature death.

Lisa's overdose at the Beatson center -- run by National Health Service Greater Glasgow and Clyde -- is the subject of an independent investigation that is currently in its final stages. Lisa's death came a few weeks after she underwent surgery to drain fluid from her brain after her cancer returned.

Lisa's father, Ken, 51, said he and his wife believe the radiation overdose -- not the return of her cancer -- was the cause of his daughter's death. "We remain convinced it was the overdoses that did this, not the cancer," he said. "She was determined not to give up her fight and she stayed fighting until the end."

Professor Sir John Arbuthnott, the chairman of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, said staff at the Beatson Oncology center was "extremely upset" to hear of Lisa's death.

"I have passed on my condolences to the family on behalf of the whole organization," said Arbuthnott. "We know this will be a tragic loss for the Norris family and our staff will do whatever they can to support them at this difficult time."

Consumer advocate Mike Adams said Lisa's radiation treatments were "toxic," and said her death is only one of many caused by such treatments.

"Cancer patients are regularly killed by chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and even when they survive such treatments, they emerge with permanent damage to vital organs like the heart, brain, kidneys and liver," Adams said. "There is a better way to treat cancer, and it doesn't involve killing the patient. It's called naturopathic medicine."

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