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What is a Medical Malpractice Environmental Hazard “Never Event”?

In a previous blog entry, we discussed the medical malpractice “never event” of incorrect amputations. A never event is something that should reasonably never happen when medical providers take typical precautions and follow acceptable medical standards and procedures. As unthinkable as incorrect amputations are, though, they are in no way the only type of never events that occur because of medical mistakes.

This entry of our continuing medical malpractice never event will take a look at environmental hazards, sometimes called environmental elements. Despite what the name may seem to indicate, an environmental hazard in medical malpractice does not involve the outdoors or the weather. Instead, it describes hazards within a medical room or setting that can hurt the patient, usually in unexpected ways.

Four of the most common types of environmental hazards of medical malpractice are:

  • Incorrect use of restraints: To keep certain patients safe from themselves, they must be restrained when in bed or on a gurney. For example, patients with severe mental disturbances may become violent or reactive when medications are administered. Or patients prone to intense seizures might be restrained to limit their movements. If the restraints are fastened too tightly, they can actually cause the patient to suffer an injury as they attempt to move. In extreme cases, an overly tightened restraint can cause suffocation and death.
  • Oxygen line defects: Patients with respiratory illnesses often require oxygen lines to assist with their breathing. Defects in the oxygen line are a type of environmental hazard. A defect could be not enough oxygen – or none at all – in the line. Nurses and medical attendants should reasonably be able to monitor a patient’s oxygen levels to make adjustments as needed. Another oxygen line defect can be caused if the wrong type of gas is fed through the line, with potentially fatal consequences.
  • Electrical shocks: When medical equipment is poorly maintained, components that plug into the wall for electrical power can become an electrical shock hazard. Reasonably, no patient should ever be required to plug or unplug their own medical equipment. Yet when adequate care is not provided and a patient is left alone in a hospital room unattended for hours, they may feel like they have to check on their own equipment.
  • Burn injuries: Similarly to electrical shock hazards, burn hazards can also become present in a medical setting when equipment is neglected. With routine checks on equipment and adequate supervision for patients, they should never be subjected or exposed to a burn hazard.

Hurt Due to an Environmental Hazard?

Pratt Clay, LLC in Atlanta, Georgia proudly represents patients and their families after a medical malpractice “never event” causes harm and suffering. If you were hurt while in the care of a medical professional, please let our medical malpractice lawyers know. Call (404) 998-5258 and speak with a member of our law firm today.