Since the middle of this decade, there have been repeated inquiries into the untimely deaths of nursing home residents caused by being trapped or strangled in bedrails. Bedrails are installed in many cases for those nursing home residents who are infirm, suffering from dementia or have a tendency to wander.
The evidence is abundant that the elderly are suffering grave injury and deaths at an alarming rate, mostly in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and at hospitals.
Both the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have been involved over these years in investigating deaths related to bedrails. Unfortunately, little has been done to force manufacturers and companies who distribute these bedrails to change the way they are utilized.
According to a recent New York Times report, the Consumer Product Safety Commission counted 150 older American adult deaths after they became trapped in bedrails between 2003 and 2012. The Food and Drug Administration said the reported data of deaths related to bedrails is probably understated because bedrails are rarely reported as a cause of death by nursing homes and coroners.
The FDA had issued safety warnings about bedrails as far back as 1995, although it did not travel the extra steps of requiring manufacturers to put safety labels on bedrails because of industry resistance. There has been only “voluntary guidelines” adopted in 2006.
If the bedrail manufacturing industry were forced to replace older models and redesign its current model, it would cost millions of dollars for both that industry and the healthcare industry, which uses these bedrails.
Bedrails have multiple functions. One is to prevent the infirm or elderly from rolling off a bed. Another purpose of the bedrail is to allow those in bed to use the bars to help the person elevate, move or sit up in bed. According to the FDA, 27 people died in 2011 from being trapped in a bedrail.
Another issue has arisen as to whether or not the bedrail devices themselves are medical devices or a consumer product. Consumer safety devices are regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission whereas medical devices would be regulated by the FDA.
The bottom line is that consumers who use bedrails in home healthcare facilities, hospitals, nursing homes and other medical facilities must warn that their use may be dangerous and could lead to deaths and injuries.
Kreisman Law Offices has been handling nursing home injury cases for the elderly, their families and individuals for more than 36 years, in and around Chicago, Cook County, and its surrounding areas, including Bridgeview, Bolingbrook, Romeoville, Wheaton, Joliet, Arlington Heights, Palatine, Rolling Meadows, Maywood, Harwood Heights and Chicago (Bridgeport), Illinois.
Photo Credit: Health Mobility Inc.
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