There are many dangers hidden in the very places where we are supposed to heal. For example, many hospital rooms have bed with rails on the side. These bed rails are familiar to everyone. They are usually made of metal and run along the side of the sleeping space, presumably to prevent the sleeper from rolling off accidentally. While that general principle seems logical, those working on patient safety matters appreciate that bed rails usually cause far more harm then they prevent.
That is why many are leading efforts to get these bed rails off the market for good with the hopes of protecting hospital patients, nursing home residents, and other who sleep in spaces with the rails.
National attention was brought to the issue late last year with one of the leading anti-bed rail activists, Gloria Black, was profiled in a comprehensive New York Times article. Black began fighting in 2006 after her mother’s untimely death. The senior died in a nursing home after her neck became trapped in a bed rail and no one was around to help. It was a shocking tragedy, but, as Black soon found out, not all that rare.
Hundreds of cases of death caused by bed rails have been documented in recent years. The federal agencies in charge of these issues, primarily the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) have known about the risks for quite some time. Yet, next to nothing has been done about it.
Fortunately, signs indicate that the inaction may finally end soon. As discussed in a recent McKnight’s story, the CPSC is moving forward to join two different petitions related to bed rail safety. They are accepting public comment on the issue now and will continue to do so for the next two months–until August 5th.
One of the petitions was started by Ms. Black and has the support of dozens of diverse organizations. The second was begun by a consumer rights advocacy group, Public Citizen. The petitions were “merged” by the CPSC on Tuesday. The Public Citizen note called for a complete ban on bed rails because of the harm they pose to those using them. The other petition also urged a complete ban. But it went further by suggesting that if the CPSC decides against a complete ban, it is important to consider other protections like more warning labels and specific design limitations.
The CPSC essentially has an array of options before it, as it can decide to do nothing, prevent the use of all bed rails, and various steps in between. Safety advocates are insistent that no intermediary step will eliminate all harm, and so a ban is likely the best option. Whatever the outcome, we can be sure that advocates will be monitoring the situation to ensure no resident suffers harm unnecessarily.
No one should be hurt by a product that is supposed to keep them safe. When it does happen, however, there may be avenues for legal recourse for those affected. To learn more, please get in touch with our injury attorneys who work on cases where bed rails were involved.
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