Published at Sunday, September 09th, 2018 - 07:10:10 AM. Bedding. By Gretchen Arnold.
As attorneys, many of us have consulted with clients and their families as a result of a fall from a hospital or nursing home bed. These falls result in fractured arms, legs, and hips, and often even more serious injuries such as skull fractures. The patient’s (or family’s) immediate reaction to these unfortunate injuries is to blame the hospital, nursing home, nursing staff, or attending physicians for the failure to have bed side rails raised and in place to prevent such falls. This typical reaction is based upon the assumption that bed rails, when properly used, will prevent the patient/resident from falling out of the bed and suffering injury. However, bed rails are not benign safety devices and this article will address the dangers created by their use.
There has been little study or publication about the risks and benefits of bed rails. However, the reports of adult deaths and injuries from bed rails on file with the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) (incidents from 1993 to 1996) provide significant information for attorneys investigating a potential negligence claim. The CPSC information reflects that seventy-four patients died as a result of the use of bed rails. Moreover, it in not unrealistic to conclude that the actual number of patient deaths far exceeded the reported deaths. Regardless of the true frequency of deaths, 70% of the reported patient deaths resulted from entrapment between the mattress and the bed rail such that the patient’s face was pressed against the mattress. 18% percent of the reported deaths were the result of entrapment and compression of the neck within the bed rails. Finally, 12% twelve percent of the reported deaths were caused by being trapped by the rails after sliding partially off the bed, resulting in neck flexion and chest compression.
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