Make Sure You're Strapped In For This!

John Fisher
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Stopping Medical Injustice
You wear a seat belt when you're in a car. You harness yourself in for an amusement park ride. But does your doctor strap you in when you're on the operating table? Will your local EMTs strap you on to the stretcher if you're being taken to the hospital in an emergency? You'd better hope so, otherwise you might end up plummeting head-first into the ground.

It's not uncommon for patients being operated on, taken to the hospital on a stretcher, or just being examined in a doctor's office to fall and injure themselves. Many of these patients are on the heavier side, weighing in at 300 pounds or more. However, you don't have to be overweight to fall during an exam or operation. Medical professionals are filled with anecdotes of times when patients of all sizes have rolled off an exam table and broken their arm, fell off of EMT stretchers and cut their forehead, or rolled off of a hospital bed fracturing their skulls.

These injuries are typically caused by the negligence of a host of health care professionals, including attending physicians, surgeons, anesthesiologists, residents, emergency medical technicians, and nurses. In some cases, patients have even died due to injuries sustained after falls during surgery. For example, a Minnesota family has filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against a local hospital after their father rolled off of an operating table while under anesthesia. The man had just suffered a stroke and was undergoing a lumbar drain. Part of his skull had been removed, and he hit the exposed part of his brain on the floor. Although the hospital performed additional surgeries on the man to correct the damage caused by the fall, he never recovered from the incident and died of a massive stroke a month later.

The lawsuit alleges that the hospital failed to use proper safeguards to prevent the fall. Although the man was strapped in by velcro straps, he weighed around 300 pounds and the straps were not strong enough to support his weight. According to the suit, the man was well "within the weight parameters of many of the patients the hospital would have to deal with, especially among stroke victims who are often overweight". A lack of straps may not be the only reason why a patient falls during surgery. The patient may also be given improper dosages of anesthesia causing them to move or twitch during the operation, or they may be improperly positioned or moved during the procedure.

Hospitals and doctors offices are required to have proper safeguards in place to ensure that their patients don't fall during an exam or surgery. Although many doctors and hospital officals try to exuse these falls as not being their fault and argue that the patient was just too large to handle, with the majority of Americans being overweight, I believe that hospitals and medical care professionals must be prepared to handle persons of all sizes. It's time for all hospitals to become equipped to handle patients of all sizes, and to ensure that their tables and medical transport devices are fitted with straps, safety bars, and other safeguards to ensure that patients remain safe at all times.



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