Philly VA doc defends himself before Congress

The New York Times‘ Walt Bogdanich has followed up his investigation into a “rogue” cancer unit at a Philadelphia VA hospital with a report on the questioning of one of the alleged rogue doctors, Gary Kao, at a congressional panel headed by Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter. Kao defended himself by claiming that the mistakes he made during a process called brachytherapy (in which tiny radioactive seeds are inserted into a patient’s prostate) were nothing out of the ordinary.

Dr. Kao did not deny placing large numbers of seeds outside the prostate, but he said investigators were wrong to single him out. “It’s a recognized risk of the procedure,” he told the panel.

Dr. Kao’s assertion was disputed by Steven A. Reynolds, who oversees materials safety at the N.R.C., which regulates all nuclear materials. Cases where large numbers of seeds miss the prostate, Mr. Reynolds said, “happen very, very infrequently.”

Kao said he voluntarily appeared before the panel to set the record straight and correct what he called “very serious false allegations” made by Bogdanich’s initial article.

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