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Bed Rails Used for the Sick and Elderly Found to Cause Injury and Death

Bed rails used to keep the sick and elderly from falling out of bed have been the cause of injury and death, according to a report in the New York Times.

The newspaper cited data compiled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission from 2003 through May 2012 showing that 150 adults died after they became trapped in bed rails, based on death certificates and emergency room records. During approximately the same time period, 36,000 mostly older adults — about 4,000 a year — were treated for bed rail injuries in emergency rooms.  The Federal Drug Administration and the Consumer Product Safety Commission said the actual numbers are probably higher because bed rails are not always listed as a cause of death.

Although the agencies have known about the dangerous bed rail design since 1995, it wasn’t until Gloria Black of Portland, Oregon, wrote to local and state officials in 2006 after her 80-year-old mother died of strangulation from getting her neck caught in bed rails. She lived in an assisted living facility.

Due to unclear directives, neither the FDA nor the commission felt that bed rails came under their purview and didn’t take action. Manufacturers did receive warnings about their product but were not required to affix warning labels, make design changes or recall the product. Fortunately, many new bed rails are designed to be safer and have features such as safety straps. However, this still leaves thousands of older, unsafe bed rails in use.

In New York, there were 634 nursing homes with 116,514 beds in 2012, according to another New York Times article about nursing homes. It is likely that many of the nursing home beds are outfitted with bed rails. This number does not include all the bed rails sold in medical supply stores for home use.

The potential for personal injury and wrongful death from bed rails remains high. If a member of your family uses bed rails, make sure they have safety features and are made specifically for the type of bed being used. Contact us today.

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