In the latest hospital safety scare, citizens across the United States were shocked to learn that patients in Alabama were infected with toxic bacteria through intravenous feeding bags designed to administer much-needed nutritional supplements to critically ill patients. While our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys were outraged at this news, we are encouraged at the hospital and governmental response.
The intravenous feeding bags at issue were manufactured by only one pharmacy, Meds IV, in Birmingham, Alabama. They were designed to deliver TPN directly into the bloodstream of patients, via IV tubing. TPN is a common nutritional supplement which delivers various critical nutrients, as well as electrolytes. TPN bags are premixed offsite and purchased by hospitals for use in their patients.
Unfortunately, these IV bags became contaminated with a dangerous bacteria, serratia marcescens. Serratia marcescens bacteria, like many bacteria, can flourish in a moist environment (such as a feeding bag). Once inside a patient, the bacteria most often congregate in the the urinary and respiratory tracts. Infection can lead to fever or chills, respiratory distress, and shock. Serratia marcescens infections are actually quite treatable – if they are caught and treated early.
At least nineteen patients at six Alabama hospitals have been sickened by the outbreak, and ten critically ill patients who were infected have died. Although these deaths have not yet been confirmed as caused by the outbreak, it is likely that this dangerous infection in patients already critically ill was at least a contributing cause.
Three separate governmental agencies are now investigating the serratia marcescens outbreak: the Alabama state health department, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and the Food and Drug Administration. All three responded swiftly to news of the outbreak. Unlike many governmental investigations of potential threats, this problem has received the serious and immediate attention it deserves. Our hospital negligence attorneys urge the CDC and the FDA to continue this responsible pattern of conduct – and exhort other governmental oversight agencies, such as the CPSC, to follow this example.
While it remains to be seen whether negligent practices or failures at the manufacturing pharmacy led to the contamination, the company itself has also responded admirably. Upon learning of the contamination, the company immediately discontinued sale of the suspect products, informed its customers of the danger, and issued a recall. The company is also fully cooperating in the ongoing investigation into the outbreak by state and federal health officials.
The attorneys at Passen & Powell, who represent individuals and families of those afflicted with hospital acquired infections, can only wish that all companies would respond to problems in this fashion. Unfortunately, when concerns about the safety of products arise, the standard response of modern companies is to dig their heels in, deny the danger, and thereby put countless innocent consumers at risk. If all companies responded immediately and fully, as Meds IV has done, scores of lives could be saved each year.
For a Free Consultation with a top-rated medical malpractice lawyer at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.