Bed Rail Deaths Come Under Scrutiny in Illinois and Nationwide

Bed rails often used as a safety measure in nursing homes across the country have recently come under scrutiny due to hundreds of reported deaths. According to data collected by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 150 senior citizens and other long-term care facility residents died after becoming caught in side rails installed on their bed between 2003 and May 2012. In addition, about 36,000 nursing home residents were reportedly treated in hospitals for bed rail injuries during the same time period. According to officials at the nation’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the data collected from hospital and death records likely failed to represent the true number of such injuries because in many cases references to bed rails may not have been included on death certificates or in patient medical files.

In 1995, the FDA reportedly issued a safety warning regarding the dangers associated with the use of bedrails in nursing homes and other care facilities. The organization failed to require safety labeling of the products, however, and voluntary bed rail safety guidelines were not established until 2006. The guidelines include recommendations regarding maximum gap size, instruct care facilities on proper bed rail use, and outline which patient body parts are most at risk for becoming caught.

According to some experts, bed rail deaths are avoidable and additional safety warnings should be required on the products. Former FDA official Larry Kessler stated none of the bed rails in use in 1995 would have passed proposed safety standards. He also said mandatory design changes could have cost bed rail manufacturers and long-term care facilities hundreds of millions of dollars. Still, many senior citizens die every year as a result of becoming caught in a care facility bed rail. According to data compiled by the New York Times, approximately 550 people have died as a result of becoming trapped in a bed rail since 1995. 27 of those largely preventable deaths reportedly occurred in 2011.

FDA officials recently stated bed rail injuries and deaths are currently being studied and possible safety action will be considered in the near future. Still, implementing any recommended safety changes may be difficult. Although the agency is tasked with regulating medical products in the U.S., many beds affixed with so-called safety rails are sold as consumer products and consequently fall under the jurisdiction of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. This means FDA requirements and other guidelines do not apply. Officials from both federal entities are reportedly working together in an effort to close the regulatory gap.

Bed rails are commonly used in Illinois nursing homes to keep seniors and others with limited mobility from falling out of bed. Unfortunately, many seniors, especially those who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, may become trapped between the device and their own mattress. Without proper supervision, frail and elderly loved ones may be severely injured or killed by bed rails that were installed to keep them safe. If your parent or other loved one was hurt or killed after becoming trapped in a skilled nursing facility bed rail, you should contact an experienced nursing home abuse and neglect attorney.

If your friend or family member was injured or killed while a patient in an Illinois nursing home, do not hesitate to call Abels & Annes, P.C. at (312) 475-9596. Our committed Chicago nursing home abuse and neglect lawyers are available 24 hours per day, seven days per week to help you protect the rights of your elderly and disabled loved ones. To schedule a free consultation with an experienced Illinois attorney, please contact Abels & Annes, P.C. through the law firm’s website.

More Blogs:

Study Finds Norovirus Outbreaks Place Nursing Home Residents at Increased Risk in Illinois and Nationwide, Illinois Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog, December 5, 2012
Grieving Chicago Family Sues Nursing Home After Unauthorized Photos of Their Dying Loved One Turn Up on the Internet, Illinois Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog, December 2, 2012
Additional Resources:

After Dozens of Deaths, Inquiry Into Bed Rails, by Ron Nixon, New York Times

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