A 43-year old cancer patient died after getting an overdose of chemotherapy drugs. The Alberta Cancer Board apologized to her family, yesterday.
Dr. Tony Fields told a news conference on Thursday, "The woman's death last week is a most unfortunate incident. She died from internal bleeding and multiple organ failure."
"This is one of our worst nightmares," said Fields, the cancer board's vice-president of medical affairs and community oncology. "This was a young woman in her forties. A wife, a sister, a mother."
On July31, this woman was sent home after chemotherapy medication from a day clinic at the Cross Cancer Institute in Edmonton. Unfortunately, the drug-administering pump was wrongly set to give the dosage in a period of 4 hours instead of 4 days.
The woman had received 5,000 mg of the drug 5-fluorouracil within the short period of 4 hours. There was no antidote or blood dialysis to save that woman, said Fields.
The dosage was extremely high and the drug is so powerful that it starts acting within minutes of administration. It damages both cancerous and healthy cells very quickly.
According to Fields, staff in the ICU of the University of Alberta hospital took every possible step to try to save her but their "heroic efforts" ultimately failed.
Fields said that it would take 2 months for the findings of an external investigation by the Institute of Safe Medical Practices to be released.
According to Fields, it is essential to preserve the public's confidence, particularly patients receiving same kind of treatment.
"We will do our best to help patients that have doubts and fears, and to counsel them," said Fields, the cancer board's vice-president of medical affairs and community oncology. "We feel that the greater importance is for our patients to know that if we slip, we will not hide it.
"We hope to maintain the bond with our patients."
The woman was suffering from nasopharynx cancer and was already receiving radiation and chemotherapy.
"Her cancer was advanced but it was not beyond cure," Fields said. "She was being treated with the expectation of a cure."