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Are Bedrails Safe?

Published on November 12th, 2010

Harry Griph Sr. was expected to die. The 75-year-old retired phone company worker was in an assisted living facility as a hospice patient. The prognosis was grim: his chronic diseases and functional impairments indicated he was very near the end of life.

The New York Times reports that a staff member found him dead on Christmas morning. But Griph hadn’t died of natural causes. His neck was trapped between the bed rail and the mattress. He had died of suffocation.

Griph’s three children and his estate sued the nursing home where he died, the hospice provider, the maker of the bed and the vendor that supplied the bed. All but the assisted living facility have settled. A lawsuit alleging negligence against the facility continues.

David Perecman, of The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C. in New York City, does not represent the Griph’s children or estate, but has handled numerous nursing home abuse cases, representing many families whose loved ones have been killed or injured. "A death in a nursing home–any death, really, especially one that was so clearly preventable–has a huge impact on the family and is not acceptable."

Disregarded Warnings

A spokesperson for the facility told the Times that the care provided Griph was adequate, despite the fact that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned about the entrapment danger bed rails pose all the way back in 1995.

University of Minnesota geriatrician and bioethicist Steven Miles told the New York Times that bed rails don’t improve safety for nursing home and assisted living patients. The rails do decrease the risk of falling by 10 to 15 percent, Miles said, but increase the risk of injuries by 20 percent in those falls that do occur.

Confused, groggy or medicated patients who try to climb the rails too often fall, breaking limbs or striking their heads. And some patients are trapped, their heads caught between the mattress and rail.

The Human Toll

The FDA counts more than 480 deaths and 138 injuries in hospital bed entrapment cases, with another 185 close calls. Miles said he believes those numbers represent a tiny fraction of the actual fatalities and injuries caused by bed rail entrapment.

It’s estimated that of the approximately 1.4 million people in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and rehabilitation centers, at least 140,000 are in beds with rails. That number does not include those people living at home in hospital-style beds equipped with dangerous rails.

Pursuing Justice After Tragedy

No one should have to suffer such a preventable death or sustain an avoidable injury in a nursing home. If a loved one has been taken from you in a nursing home or assisted living facility involving a bed rail and entrapment, contact a New York City wrongful death attorney for an assessment of the facts of the case. A wrongful death lawyer will advise you of your legal options and help you pursue justice.

Article provided by The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C.

Joe Pioletti
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