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Therac-25 Abstract

Therac-25 was a new generation medical linear accelerator for treating cancer. It incorporated the most recent computer control equipment. Therac-25’s computerization made the laborious process of machine setup much easier for operators, and thus allowed them to spend minimal time in setting up the equipment. In addition to making setup easier, the computer also monitored the machine for safety. With the advent of computer control, hardware based safety mechanisms were transferred to the software. Hospitals were told that the Therac-25 medical linear accelerator had "so many safety mechanisms" that it was "virtually impossible" to overdose a patient.

Normally, when a patient is scheduled to have radiation therapy for cancer, he or she is scheduled for several sessions over a few weeks and told to expect some minor skin discomfort from the treatment. The discomfort is described as being like a mild sunburn over the treated area. But in this case on safety critical software, you will find that some patients received much more radiation than prescribed