Washington man dies after use of recalled medical device

When a patient is admitted to the hospital, there are myriad concerns regarding the quality of care he or she will receive. Most people who worry about medical mistakes focus on physician or hospital errors that might be made. Other possible hazards that many people fail to consider is the potential for one of the many high tech medical devices used in the hospital to malfunction.

Recently, a Washington man died when an Infusomat - a device used to provide fluids to patients through an IV - allowed 10 times the prescribed dosage of morphine to flow into his system. The man was being treated for throat cancer at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Seattle. The morphine had been prescribed to help manage his pain.

While officials are still unable to determine the cause of the malfunction in this particular case, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had issued a recall of the device in August 2012. The recall notice specified that a clip meant to prevent the free flow of fluids had the potential to break, which could cause "life-threatening effects and injuries."

Most Washington hospitals must report devices that malfunction

While the VA hospital in Washington is exempt from such requirements, most hospitals in the state are required to report when a medical device causes serious harm to a patient. The state has established a website where such information is posted for the public to view.

Nevertheless, thousands of people in the United States suffer harm as a result of faulty medical devices each year. In addition, some people question whether new medical devices are being approved too quickly by the FDA, as over 90 percent never undergo clinical tests on people prior to approval.

According to a medical device research group - ECRI Institute - infusion pumps are the second highest safety risk in the medical field. Each year, the FDA receives approximately 10,000 reports of problems with infusion pumps across the country. In the U.S., approximately 120 people die annually as a result of malfunctioning pumps. In addition, around 3,800 people are seriously injured when these devices fail to work properly each year.

If you or a loved one has been harmed by a malfunctioning medical device, you may be entitled to compensation to account for the damage caused by the faulty machine. In such cases, you should consider consulting with a qualified personal injury attorney, as a legal professional will help ensure your rights are protected.