The chief physician at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston is stepping down because of chemotherapy overdoses that killed one patient and left another with severe heart damage.
David M. Livingston, M.D., said last week that his departure would be "a signal that this institution means what it said when it indicated it was going to get to the bottom of these tragic incidents."
The resignation follows last month's disclosure that an overdose of chemotherapy drugs killed Betsy Lehman, 39, a Boston Globe health columnist suffering from breast cancer. An unidentified 52-year-old woman suffered severe heart damage only two days earlier after a nearly identical mistake.
"The entire institute bears collective responsibility for this," Livingston said in an interview with the Associated Press.
Lehman's heart failed after she was given four times the maximum safe dosage of a highly toxic drug during chemotherapy. The error went unnoticed by at least a dozen nurses, doctors and pharmacists. It was discovered by a records clerk Feb. 13, more than two months after she died.
Also last fall, the other victim suffered heart damage after a megadose of chemotherapy drugs. She was transferred to another hospital.
Lehman's husband has filed a lawsuit against the institute seeking unspecified damages.
Livingston, 56, handed in his resignation May 2 but will stay on until his replacement completes an investigation of the overdoses. His replacement is Stephen E. Sallan, M.D., director of pediatric oncology.
The hospital said last week it will spend $1.3 million to educate doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other employees about drug protocol and documentation of medical records.
Last month, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations gave Dana-Farber six months to correct unspecified problems related to the overdoses.