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While technology surges, radiation safeguards lag

New York Times, January 27, 2010

Several high-profile mistakes and the failure of hospitals to quickly identify them offer a look into the vulnerability of patient safeguards at a time when increasingly complex, computer-controlled devices are fundamentally changing medical radiation, delivering higher doses in less time with greater precision than ever before, the New York Times reports. The new equipment is successful in diagnosing and fighting disease, but the technology introduces its own risks: it has created new avenues for error in software and operation, and those mistakes can be more difficult to detect. As a result, a single error that becomes embedded in a treatment plan can be repeated in multiple radiation sessions, reports the Times.