There are two reasons that rails are dangers. The first, most serious, concern is that they form a gap between themselves and the edge of a bed. If a patient rolls over, the bed might be pushed to the other side and the patient's body might be stuck in the middle, potentially causing asphyxiation by crushing the chest. Or the patient's neck may get caught in the space and suffocation is possible.
A second risk comes from the danger facing patients who want to exit the bed by climbing over the rails thanks to confusion or dementia. These patients have much farther to fall should they lose control than if rails were not there, and they have a greater chance of falling in awkward directions, perhaps hitting their head on the way down.
In total, rails diminish the risk of falling by 10-15%. But they increase the risk of injury around 20%, according to bioethecist Steven Miles of the University of Minnesota. Last year, the FDA released a study claiming 480 deaths, 138 injuries, and 185 close calls as a result of hospital beds over the course of 24 years.
Now, few hospitals use rails thanks to regulations, lawsuits, and general knowledge. In 1995, the FDA warned against bed rails. In 1999, Wisconsin put out its own alert. Less than 10% of nursing home residents are in a bed with rails.
As a practicing medical malpractice, wrongful death, and personal injury attorney in New York, I deal with potential hazards like this every day. If you have experienced related problems, I want you to pick up the phone and call me. I can help. If you would like more information about how medical malpractice and accident cases work in the state of New York, I encourage you to explore my educational website. If you have legal questions, I urge you to pick up the phone and call me at 516-487-8207 or by e-mail at [email protected] to answer your questions. That's what I do every day. I welcome your call.