Federal officials announced an investigation into reports of several nursing home and hospital deaths involving bed rails. The Food and Drug Administration is investigating at least 150 fatalities involving mostly older adults. These occurred between 2003 through May 2012. In all of these cases, the persons died after they became trapped in the bed rails attached to beds in nursing homes and hospitals.
Bed rails are used in hospital and nursing homes in order to prevent an adult patient from falling off the bed, and also to help the patient ambulate. However, as these fatalities indicate, older patients who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia may get confused and become trapped in these bed rails. The patient may get trapped between one of the metal bars and the mattress. This entrapment may be serious enough to cause serious injury, suffocation, or even death.
Data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission also indicates at least 36,000 injuries occurred; most all involving older adults getting trapped in these bed rails, during the same period of time. However, those are just preliminary figures. The actual number of people being injured or killed in these incidents could be much higher because most hospitals and nursing homes do not list bed rail-related injuries as the cause of death.
This is not the first that the federal administration has been alerted to the safety problems involving bed rails. In 1995, the Food and Drug Administration issued several warnings about bed rails, but failed to follow up or take any stronger action. In 2006, the agency introduced voluntary guidelines for manufacturers. The agency could have asked manufacturers to affix safety warning labels on the bed rails, but it failed to do so because of strong pressure from the industry. There was little support for extra regulation then, and the federal agency backed out of taking stronger action.
The good news is that the numbers of these injuries and fatalities has been declining, because hospitals or nursing homes have been investing in training their staff to avoid such hazards. However, dozens of senior citizens continue to die in such incidents every year in hospitals and nursing homes across the country. The risks are especially high with older beds that make use of the older rail models.
These deaths are almost entirely preventable. Experts believe that more warnings and greater awareness about the severity of the problem can help prevent many of these fatalities. Moreover, there are very serious questions about which federal agency is responsible for these issues. The Food and Drug Administration is typically involved in the regulation of medical devices, while consumer products are regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
The Indiana product liability attorneys at Montross Miller Muller Mendelson Kennedy, LLP represent persons who have been injured by the use of defective products across Indiana.