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Cancer kills patient mistakenly overdosed in 1994 treatment

May 30, 1997

BOSTON (AP) _ Maureen Bateman, a teacher who went public about her battle with breast cancer to inspire others after a near-fatal chemotherapy overdose put her case in the news, has died at age 55.

Mrs. Bateman, who lived in North Andover, died of cancer Wednesday at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

She and Betsy A. Lehman, health columnist for The Boston Globe, received overdoses of a cancer drug in November 1994 at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. They were both taking part in an experimental chemotherapy program.

The overdose killed Ms. Lehman, 39, and so severely damaged Mrs. Bateman’s heart that specialists thought she, too, would die. She slowly recovered, but developed cancer of the liver, lung and heart this spring and declined further chemotherapy.

The widely publicized overdoses led to new safeguards at Dana-Farber and other hospitals. The Batemans sued Dana-Farber and settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.

Mrs. Bateman’s name was not made public at the time of the overdose, but late in 1995 she decided to talk about her experience, hoping to encourage other breast cancer patients faced with long odds from experimental treatments.

``Maybe there’s somebody out there having a hard time making this decision. Maybe my story will help,″ she said.

As for the overdose, she said, ``I’m not happy about what happened, but I don’t blame anyone for it. ... Right from the very beginning, I just figured it was a mistake that was made.″

Her husband, Jerry Bateman, said many people called or wrote her after she went public. He recalled one woman who was trying to decide whether to go through a bone-marrow transplant.

``Maureen said, `The hell I went through I would go through again because it gave me hope for some more time with my family.′ The woman said because of that advice, she would go through with it,″ he said.

``She never wanted to dwell on the negatives,″ said Mrs. Bateman’s sister, Patsy Morgan, a nurse in Hampton, N.H.

Mrs. Bateman taught in public and parochial schools in Lawrence, Methuen, Exeter, N.H., and Hampstead, N.H. Besides her husband and sister, she is survived by two daughters, a son, her mother and another sister.

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