Medical Malpractice Liability and Stage IV Bedsores

A Stage IV bedsore is often clear evidence of negligence and neglect that gives rise to a cause of action against a hospital or care facility for medical negligence. Bedsores progress through Stages I, II and III before they evolve into the very serious Stage IV bedsores, which can pose serious threats to a patient’s health and quality of life.

All bedsores get their start when a bedridden patient’s skin experiences reduced blood flow and abrasion due to inactivity and improper care. Skin that covers a patient’s bone or other areas of the patient’s body where the skin is thinner, such as the patient’s hips, lower back, and shoulders, are common sites for bedsores.  Caregivers for an individual who is confined to his or her bed or who otherwise lacks mobility should be trained to watch for Stage I and II bedsores at these pressure points and elsewhere. This is a basic minimum standard of care that will be raised in any trial that focuses on whether medical negligence caused Stage IV bedsores.

Stage IV Bedsores: A Tragic Example

Stage IV bedsores can develop over short periods of time if these minimum standards are not met. For example, the plaintiff in a recent case in New York State, Messina v. Staten Island University Hospital, developed a Stage IV bedsore after only four days of hospitalization. Subsequent inadequate care led to further bedsores and complications, resulting in the patient’s hospitalization and confinement to care facilities for more than a year.  Experts retained by his attorney determined that his Stage IV bedsores were not treated properly, he was not offered care facilities and equipment to ease the Stage IV bedsore condition, and his medical staff overlooked other medical problems that placed him at a greater risk of developing Stage IV bedsores.

Standards of Care and Treatment for Stage IV Bedsores

Monetary awards for injuries and damages resulting from Stage IV bedsores that arose from negligent care will be a function of whether the care facility helped a patient to change positions frequently, which alleviates pressure on specific pressure points on the patient’s body; whether any earlier-stage bedsores were cleaned and cared for properly before they evolved into Stage IV bedsores; whether any topical or internal medications were provided to assist in healing earlier-stage bedsores (antibiotics may be offered, for example, to prevent bedsore from becoming infected); and whether pressure or fluid therapy were offered or made available to ease bedsore pain and discomfort.  Bedsores may still develop if these therapies are provided, but it is less likely that the hospital or care facility will be liable for Stage IV bedsore medical negligence when they have offered these therapies.

The severity of Stage IV bedsores is beyond question, and hospitals and care facilities which fail to address conditions that cause Stage IV bedsores are at risk for more than just negligence liability to the injured parties. Recent amendments to the federal government’s Medicare program preclude hospitals from seeking to be reimbursed for medical care provided to elderly patients if those patients have developed Stage III or IV bedsores during their hospitalizations.

A person who has developed a Stage IV bedsore while hospitalized (or that person’s family) should consult with an attorney as soon as possible after the development of the Stage IV bedsore to determine whether a cause of action is available to procure compensation for the Stage IV bedsores and any related injuries or maladies.  Stage IV bedsores are within the realm of medical malpractice lawsuits, and every state has its rules and standards for filing and prosecuting those lawsuits.  A qualified attorney will provide the best guidance for seeking any compensation to which an injured party may be entitled.

An overview of general bedsore treatment may be found at:

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bedsores/basics/treatment/con-20030848

 

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