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Public Statements

Hearing Of The Subcommittee On Health Of The House Committee On Energy And Commerce - Medical Radiation: An Overview Of The Issues

Statement

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

"Today the Subcommittee is meeting to discuss the topic "Medical Radiation: An
Overview of the Issues." By now, I am sure many of you have read or at least heard of
the New York Times article series on medical radiation errors. The patient stories
highlighted in those articles are heart-wrenching and have raised huge concerns and
questions for me as well as for many of my fellow members in the House of
Representatives.

"Let me start by saying however, that medical radiation undoubtedly saves lives.
It has reshaped the world of diagnostics and has offered patients less invasive alternatives
for treating complex and life-threatening conditions.

"I know there was concern that by having this hearing, Congress would be
sending the message that medical radiation is bad. I would like to assure you, this is not
the case. It is important that patients do not stop going to their scheduled treatments, or
getting their CT scans when they need them. We are not here today to make the
statement that medical radiation should not be used.

"But we are here today to learn more about the field and to examine what the
driving factors are when things go wrong. Due to the dangerous nature of these
technologies, when things do go wrong, the effects on patients are horrendous.

"As mentioned, the benefits that we as a society have gained from these
advancements are enormous. But we often forget the fact that we are still dealing with
something that is toxic to the human body. When it is delivered correctly, a single CT
scan can deliver as much radiation as 300 hundred chest x-rays. With operating
technology as powerful and dangerous as this, it is even more crucial that quality and
safety are always front and center. But tragically, as highlighted in the articles, this is not
always the case. A procedure with such a small margin of error should be stringently
overseen and monitored, but these critical steps appear to be sorely lacking.

"With all the advancements the industry has made, these technologies have
become more complex and complicated to operate. It is shocking to me that in many
states individuals who operate these devices do not need to be licensed and are therefore
not regulated at all in terms of education and expertise. Even in states where there are
licensing requirements, the requirements to report errors and the penalties for making
errors are basically non-existent or not enforced. As a result, we have no idea how often
these errors occur and have no good data on where the weaknesses in the system truly
are.

"Part of the problem could be the fact that no single agency has authority over the
entire spectrum of issues related to medical radiation and because of this, things are more
likely to fall through the cracks. I am eager to hear from our witnesses today about this,
and what problems it presents.

"In addition to the lack of oversight from a regulatory perspective, there also
appears to be very little guidance to physicians on the appropriateness of use of these
technologies, especially with respect to radiation dosage and life-time exposure of
radiation. I know one of our witnesses today will go into more detail on this issue but for
example, dosing for the same CT scan can vary by huge amounts, between and within
facilities.

"In addition, there are questions as to the appropriateness of use of these scans. I
know from personal experience, that health care providers are very quick to order yet
another CT scan, without talking to patients about the health risks let alone the
cumulative effects of multiple scans. Many in Congress have questioned the overuse of
medical imaging but for the most part, those conversations have centered on cost
implications. I have to wonder though if there are not also health implications as well. I
am eager to hear from our witnesses today about this issue and what is being done to
study the long-term, cumulative effects of medical radiation.

"Our witnesses today are all intimately familiar with these types of technologies;
the possibilities they hold, and the dangers they can present. I would like to welcome you
all; especially Ken Mizrach who has travelled here from my home state of New Jersey
and Mr. Parks whose son's story was featured in one of the New York Times articles.
We appreciate you taking the time to speak to the committee on this very important issue.
And I look forward to what I hope will be an engaging conversation."


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