When you are sick or injured and in the hospital, the only thing you should have to think about is getting better. Being a patient in a hospital is stressful enough, and you shouldn’t also have to worry about your safety while you are a patient. You should be able to relax and feel comfortable knowing that the doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, or technicians who care for you are using equipment that is safe, working properly, inspected for safety, and up to date. You should also expect that those same caregivers operating the machines have been properly trained in using that equipment. However, that is not always the case. Medical equipment defects, failures, or user error and negligence, unfortunately, are very common and can lead to catastrophic injuries or death. In 1999, the Institute of Medicine issued a report finding that anywhere between 44,000 and 98,000 patients die each year in hospitals as a result of medical errors, including equipment and operator errors or failures.
Unsuspecting Dangers to Patients
You probably don’t realize how much technology is used in a hospital. Nor do you really care just as long as it makes you feel better. You, as a patient, can be exposed to many medical devices, for example: IV (infusion) pumps, heart monitors, blood sugar monitors, defibrillators, anesthesia machines, blood pressure machines, pulse oximters, etc. A problem with any of those devices, whether due to a product defect, maintenance or repair problems, operator error, or even something as simple as a dead battery, can lead to permanent injuries or even death. A defective device or improperly programmed IV pump might deliver an overdose of a medication that can significantly harm you or a loved one. Premature babies, the elderly, and patients with chronic illnesses can be seriously injured by even the smallest of errors. A malfunctioning heart monitor could miss a dangerous, life threatening, heart arryhthmia that could lead to a failure to diagnose and treat a potentially fatal or deadly heart rhythm. You should not have to worry about these possibilities. It is the responsibility of the product manufacturers and hospital staff to monitor it regularly, and be trained to use it properly. Sadly, that does not always the happen.
Hospitals and medical centers have a responsibility to perform proper and regular maintenance on the medical equipment they use. If the devices are improperly maintained, or not maintained at all, it can lead to equipment malfunctioning or device failure. Staff and patients rely on this equipment for a proper diagnosis, monitoring, prompt treatment, and patient safety. Negligence in the maintenance of the medical devices can lead to very painful and life altering consequences for patients such as you, your spouse, your child, or parents. It can lead to catastrophic, life-altering events, including death.
Even simple tasks like changing the batteries on a PCA, pain pump, or a blood sugar monitor such as accu-check, or making sure that the suction equipment is functioning and in its proper place, often go undone. Because of those oversights, a patient may get a deadly dose of pain medication or a patient with a dangerously high or low blood sugar will not be treated, leading to life long injuries, medical expenses or even death. Both you and I know that we need to change the battery in our home smoke alarms every year. How hard is it for hospital to replace a battery in a live saving medical device?
Often in a hospital, if the nurses do not want to hear the alarms ringing all the time, they will turn the alarms off or change the high and low settings to deadly alert levels. Many, if not all of our nurses and doctors that work on our Medical Device Teams, have witnessed other healthcare providers turning off or changing settings on alarms. That is not something you would see in a medical record but because we have teams of nurses and physicians that actually worked in hospitals, we are well aware of what can happen beyond the medical records. The same alarm overrides are done to bed alarms, call bells, ventilators, medication pumps, and pulse ox monitors. As a result of these operator errors and negligence, serious catastrophic injuries or even death can occur.
Medical Equipment and Device Problems In The News
A story in the news fairly recently is a prime example of what can go wrong in a hospital when the equipment is not properly maintained. A patient undergoing heart bypass surgery died when a pump failed that was meant to keep his blood flowing to his body and brain during an operation. Not only did the actual device fail, but the hospital itself did not notify the manufacturer and proper authorities after the incident. The pump was then still used on other patients without going through the correct maintenance procedures, thus endangering the lives of many more patients.
On February 17, 2011, Medtronic SynchroMed infusion pumps were recalled due to a design defect, that led to refilling errors where doctors unknowingly missed the device and injected the drugs straight into patients’ bodies. That design defect led to hundreds of reported injuries from the Medtronic SynchroMed pump, including deaths.
In January, Medtronic, Inc. sent an “Urgent Medical Device Correction” letter to doctors, hospitals, and health care providers warning them that there was a problem with the pumps that allow a “pocket fill,” that could cause serious injury or death due to drug overdose. In that letter, Medtronic indicated that there had been at least 351 reports of pocket fill problems. Due to the machine’s design defect, eight people have died and 270 people required emergency care due to serious or life threatening injuries. Additionally, there were approximately 73 other incidents in which there was a non-life threatening injury or Medtronic did not know the outcome after the error.
Medtronic estimates, that approximately 1 in every 10,000 SynchroMed drug refill attempts by doctors or health care professionals cause a pocket fill. However, the actual rate of occurrence could be much higher, because many medical mistakes are not reported.
Leaders In Product Liability Litigation Winning Your Battles
Thousands of patients are seriously injured each year as a result of medical device failures or hospital staff errors. Here at the nationally recognized Beasley Firm, our Philadelphia product liability attorneys understand what it is like when you or a loved one has been injured as a result of one of these failures. Our specialized Medical Device team, made up of nurses and physicians, have spent over 60 years working in the hospital setting. Our hospital experience provides us with the additional knowledge that not everything makes it into the medical records.
Since 1958, The Beasley Firm has successfully represented patients just like you or your loved one that have been injured or suffered a wrongful death as a result of negligence or product liability due to an error involving medical or hospital equipment or operator error. The legendary Philadelphia negligence, product liability, and wrongful death lawyers of The Beasley Firm have been awarded in excess of $2 billion dollars and have sustained hundreds of verdicts, settlements, and awards in excess of $1 million dollars. Our record of success speaks for itself. If you or a loved one has been wrongfully injured or killed due to medical equipment, please contact one of our experienced Philadelphia medical equipment failure lawyers at 1-(888) 823-5291. As always, we offer a zero fee guarantee which means that if we don’t make a recovery on your behalf, you don’t owe us a dime. We always offer a free, no obligation consultation.