Bed rails in nursing homes pose a significant danger to elderly or infirm patients in hospitals and nursing homes. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) portable bed rails and hospital bed rails, are the cause of numerous deaths and severe injuries in the last decade. Patients who died as a result of bed rail accidents became trapped between the rail and the bed frame. These unfortunate people suffocated to death. Other serious injuries occurred when the bed rails failed to provide a safety barrier, and the patient fell out of bed, crashing to the floor.
Nursing homes and hospitals in New York must ensure the safety of their patients. The duty of care associated with medical care is a high burden, but it is not insurmountable. Nursing homes and hospitals must be aware of safety hazards and take the appropriate steps to prevent accidents. Accidents do happen, but New York nursing homes and hospitals are taking an unreasonable risk that a patient of theirs could become trapped in a bed rail if the medical staff does not take the appropriate measures to guard against such a tragedy.
Aside from preventing accidents, nursing home staff members have used bed rails as a method of restraint. In cases of elder abuse, nursing home staff have confined patients to their bed by installing bed rails, well knowing that the patient cannot extricate themselves from the bed. Using bed rails as a restraint mechanism is cruel. While older adults can endanger themselves by getting out of bed and wandering, that is no reason to tie a person into his or her bed. The practice is grotesque and is inhumane; the bed rails might as well be bars to a jail cell. Bed rails are to ensure that people do not fall out of bed and are there to assist if the person needs something sturdy to hang onto so they can move in the bed.
Hospitals, nursing homes, managed care facilities, and other healthcare professionals who provide medical services may be liable for injuries or death caused by the careless, reckless, or intentional acts relating to the use of bed rails. If you or your loved one suffered an injury or died as a result of bed rail misuse or malfunction, you have valuable rights and may be eligible to receive financial compensation.
The CPSC and FDA agree that not every person is an appropriate candidate to use bed rails. People who suffer from mental problems such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease might not be safe in a bed with rails. There is a chance that the person’s altered mental state might lead the person to be confused and get trapped in the device. Additionally, people with severe physical limitations might not have the strength to extricate themselves from the trapped position. They might not even have the physical ability to yell for help if they get caught in the bed rails.
Most of the bed rail deaths of which the FDA was aware from 2003 to 2012 occurred in the home. Deaths at home accounted for 94 of the 155 total accidental deaths attributed to bed rail accidents. The remainder is distributed as follows:
- 25 at nursing homes,
- 15 at assisted living facilities,
- Three at hospice care centers, and
- 18 at other or unspecified locals.
The number of people killed in bed rail incidents decreased with time. However, from January of 1985 to January of 2013, the FDA received 901 medical device reports regarding bed rail incidents. Out of the 901 people involved, 531 died, 151 suffered non-fatal injuries, and medical staff prevented injury or saved people 220 times. The reports reveal that nearly all of the patients were very old, frail, and easily disoriented. Some were trapped while the others either fell out of bed due to a lowered bed rail, fell onto the bed rail, or fell trying to climb over the bed rail.
The CPSC also reviewed bed rail injuries. They searched hospital databases looking for codes relating to bed rail injuries. The CPSC uncovered over 36,000-bed rail incidents from January 2003 to December 2011. The injuries included minor injuries such as cuts, scrapes, bruises, along with more serious injuries like head trauma and broken bones.
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