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Hospital negligence in Michigan can occur with 'alarm fatigue'

Anyone who has spent time in a hospital knows that it can be a noisy environment. Nearly every room has machines that constantly make sounds as patients' vital signs are monitored. These sounds have become so commonplace that medical staff in Michigan and nationwide may become desensitized to them -- turning the alarms down or off, or simply ignoring them when they sound. This type of hospital negligence can put patients at risk for greater injury, illness or death.

This problem, known as alarm fatigue, has resulted in patient deaths when medical staff did not respond in a timely manner after an alarm sounded. According to the Joint Commission, a hospital accreditation organization, 80 deaths within a 31/2-year period have been reported that resulted from alarm fatigue. However, the commission believes there have been a large number of deaths due to this type of negligence that have gone unreported.

As more sophisticated equipment with alarm systems is being developed, the Joint Commission is encouraging hospitals to pay more attention to the issue of alarm fatigue. Nurses and other medical staff are doing this by identifying which machines emit non-critical alarms. Hospitals are also being asked to designate people who are allowed to turn off these alarms. Failure to address this problem could lead to a hospital losing its accreditation.

Hospitals in Michigan and across the country have a responsibility to care for patients and keep them safe. If a patient is put at risk because of hospital negligence and ultimately suffers more because of it, he or she may wish to explore what legal options are available. In many cases, patients may be awarded compensation through a medical malpractice lawsuit while also holding the hospital accountable for its negligence.

Source: The Washington Post, "'Alarm fatigue' at hospitals poses risks for patients," Lena H. Sun, July 7, 2013

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