Radiation Treatment for Those Who Could Afford It

Itai Bavli, Shifra Shvarts

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


In the early 1970s, medical research confirmed the long-standing suspicion that children and young adults treated with radiation for benign diseases, during the 1950s and 1960s, showed an alarming tendency to develop thyroid cancer and other ailments as adults. On July 13, 1977, the National Cancer Institute-NCI, launched a media campaign to warn the public and the medical community of the long-term risks of therapeutic irradiation. This research brings together official protocols, court rulings, newspaper archives, and other documentary evidence to show how the media's coverage of hospitals' efforts to locate and examine their former patients led to the NCI's media campaign. This was one of the first known campaigns where national health authorities used the media to warn the public of late effects of a standard treatment that was widely accepted. This study suggests a link between the nature of the population at risk and the action of the NCI. In the United States, the private nature of its healthcare system meant that those who underwent radiation treatment were those who could afford it-patients from middle or upper middle classes almost all of whom were white. This study offers a critical investigation of the link between the population at risk and the willingness of the NCI to launch the nationwide campaign, compared to other historical cases when disadvantaged communities were affected by adverse effects of medical treatments.
Original languageEnglish GB
StatePublished - 11 Jul 2018


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