Bed rails remain on the market that can hurt or kill the elderly

Bed rails remain on the market that can hurt or kill the elderly


As U.S. regulators and legislators move to potentially ban Deadly infant sleep productBed rails and bed handles, most of which killed hundreds of older Americans, remain on the market.

Often purchased for the sick or frail elderly, side rails and metal rods are used in hospital beds and home care to prevent patients from pulling themselves up or falling out of bed. I will. However, these products, sold as safety devices and sold at retailers and medical supplies stores such as Amazon and Walmart, have been shown to be unsafe for thousands of injured elderly and disabled patients. I am.

“There’s a lot of guilt on the part of the person who bought it,” said Gloria Black, whose 81-year-old mother, Clara Marshall, died in 2007 after her neck was caught on a siderail.

Black’s father was worried that his wife would slip the mattress onto the floor with the advice of a nursing staff at a life support facility in Vancouver, Washington, Black told CBS Money Watch. A month after the mother was buried, the State Department of Health contacted Black to see if she was aware of the role of the product in her death.

“It’s very common in these cases. People aren’t always aware that bed rails are involved,” Black said. “After I knew, the agreement with my dad was that we needed to do something. That led to my advocacy.”

Black investigated what had happened to his mother and found that others had suffocated after his neck was trapped in the bed rails. “There was no evidence that these products could make people safer.”

Decades of accidents

Black also learned that government agencies had been aware of the dangers for years.

Between 1985 and 2013, the Food and Drug Administration received reports of 901 cases of patients being caught, trapped, entangled, or strangled in hospital bed rails. They included 531 deaths, 151 non-fatal injuries, and 220 cases in which staff needed to intervene to prevent injuries.

“Most patients were frail, elderly, or confused,” according to an agency that regulates hospital beds manufactured using side rails as medical devices.

FDA warning about bed rails.

US Food and Drug Administration

In addition, according to the FDA, seven deaths related to portable bed rails were reported to the FDA between 2005 and 2013.

More recent examples of bedrail-related incidents can be found by searching the FDA’s site. Details are uncertain, but one case in 2016 reported to the FDA describes a patient who died and was found “head on the side rails of the bed and the rest of the body on the floor.” did.

Between 2003 and 2019, an estimated 69,000 adults were treated in the emergency room of a US hospital for railroad-related injuries, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. According to the July 2020 CPSC briefing paper, 260 of these cases involved adult portable bed rails, of which 247 died.

“The question of whether the current products on the market in 2020 are substantially compliant with voluntary standards has not yet been determined,” the agency added to the report.

“They aren’t all safe,” says one doctor.

Portable rails may be regulated by the FDA as a medical product or by the CPSC as a consumer product, depending on the intended use.

“We have received many reports of deaths and injuries related to both adult portable bed rail products and hospital bed rails,” the FDA said on its website. Even if the product is properly designed, compatible with beds and mattresses, and used properly, it can result in death or serious injury, most with confinement or tipping.

The problem may be understated, as bed rails are not always listed as a cause of death by nursing homes or coroners, or as a cause of injury by doctors in the emergency room.

“They aren’t all safe. Bed rails placed on the sides of the bed to prevent adults and children from falling out of bed, or to help them place themselves and get in and out of bed. They are too dangerous, whether or not they are. ” “There is no way to design it to be safe, as confinement can occur.”

The FDA and CPSC did not respond to requests for comment.

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Portable bed rail

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

CPSC recently announced New safety standards Effectively eliminates slanted sleepers for babies under 5 months of age. Inclined sleepers and crib bumper pads associated with numerous sudden infant deaths due to suffocation were also banned under the Sudden Infant Death Act passed by the House of Representatives last month, and a bipartisan version was introduced to the Senate.

However, decades ago efforts to prevent similar dangers to the elderly and Americans with disabilities have largely failed. A 2013 petition by other supporters, including Public Citizen and Black, urged a ban on bed rails, and the federal agency overseeing the product instead created voluntary standards to improve recall and safety. Focused on.

For example, the FDA issued a warning about bed rails until 1995 and adopted voluntary guidelines for manufacturers in 2006. The CPSC standard also voluntarily came into effect in 2017. This includes safety labels and warnings, and a “description”. According to the CPSC, literature requirements aimed at minimizing the risk of confinement and strangulation. “

The Product Safety Commission also oversaw multiple product recalls in April. Warn consumers not to use Three models of portable bed rails sold online by Wal-Mart and other retailers due to the risk of trapping and strangulation.

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The FDA in April warned consumers not to use the three models of portable bed rails sold online by Wal-Mart and other retailers.

Consumer Product Safety Commission

Approximately 113,000 adult portable bed handles were recalled in 2014 in connection with the strangulation of four elderly or disabled people, including Black’s mother, to be equipped with safety straps that are believed to address the danger. I did.

“The CPSC evaluated the bed rails and found that individuals could be trapped between the bed rails and the mattress, or part of the bed rails themselves, leading to choking,” the CPSC said in a warning. I am.

More stringent measures needed

Some experts believe that government warnings and voluntary industry standards are inadequate.

“The problem with portable rails is that they can’t be adjusted in a safe way to prevent gaps between the rails and mattresses,” said Stephen Miles, a retired MD and emeritus professor at Center for Bioethics. I am. The University of Minnesota first warned federal regulators about railroads in 1995.

“In addition, the FDA estimates that one rail is different from another if all rails are essentially the same,” Miles said of the idea that standards or warnings reduce the inherent risk. I rejected it.

Miles considers the danger to be overlooked, as bed rail casualties primarily involve the elderly.

“These are old people who are expected to die anyway,” he said. “Is there any other population that can hide the 500 dead?”



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