One of the main reasons why sick people are in the hospital rather than at home is to watch their vital signs – heart beat, breathing and blood pressure – and intervene promptly when something goes south. But a distressing number of patients are injured or killed each year when they lacked proper monitoring. These cases amount to medical malpractice in many circumstances.
- A patient is injured because nurses ignored alarms that kept going off too often, a kind of “boy cries wolf” situation except the wolf really was growling at the patient’s bed.
- A patient “codes” and it turns out the hospital’s CPR equipment is broken or missing key pieces.
- A patient chokes to death from a post-surgical collection of blood in the neck which developed over hours, while nurses treated the patient’s growing agitation as signs of an anxiety disorder.
- Understaffing leads to failure to check on a patient often enough, and in this case to realize that the patient is bleeding, until several units of blood have dripped onto the floor.
“Alarm fatigue” is a special problem in the modern hospital unit. An investigative article by the Boston Globe found hundreds of patients have died in recent years. The Globe reported in 2011 that with the rising use of alarms, the relentless beeping, the numerous false alarms, nurses can just tune them out, even important ones. In other instances, staff have misprogrammed complicated monitors or forgotten to turn them on. Read more at the Boston Globe’s website.
Patients and families — especially families of critically ill patients — need to ask the hospital staff to explain what each monitor is used for. You need to know what sounds they emit and how to tell the difference between a major alarm and a minor issue. Then, if a critical alarm sounds and no one comes, immediately go for help.
Consult with an Experienced Malpractice Attorney
If you believe you or a family member has been seriously injured from medical malpractice, medical error, or neglect by a doctor, hospital, nurse, clinic, nursing home or other health care provider, you may want to click here to contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney for a free evaluation of your case. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 202-742-1500 or 888-625-6635 toll-free. We will respond within 24 hours. There is no charge for our initial consultation.