Patients who are immobile for long periods of time can experience pressure sores, which are more commonly called bedsores, due to reduced blood flow to areas of their skin and abrasion between skin and fabric surfaces. A patient who suffers from bedsores might have a cause of action the medical facility if that facility was negligent in offering proper care and treatment for an immobile patient.
Medical Negligence Liability and Bedsores
The severity of an individual’s bedsores is divided into four categories:
- Stage I bedsores occur when a person’s skin shows signs of irritation and damage;
- Stage II bedsores are characterized by ulcers or lesions on the person’s skin;
- Stage III bedsores are bleeding wounds that expose underlying tissue;
- Stage IV bedsores, which can be life-threatening, are sores that expose bone, muscle, and ligaments.
A patient suffering from Stages III and IV bedsores is further susceptible to sepsis and other bacterial infections, as the open wounds provide an ideal pathway for those infections to enter the person’s system.
Bedsore Prevention and Treatment
Bedsores are most commonly seen in elderly patients who are residents in elder care facilities. Those institutions are changed with exercising reasonable standards of care that will prevent the early onset of bedsores, and their failure to administer that care can result in negligence liability.
A minimum standard of care will include repositioning a bedridden patient’s body to remove pressure from the same areas for period of time, regularly changing the patient’s sheets and bedclothes, offering massage and other treatments designed to increase blood flow, and treating bedsores when patient exhibits Bedsores from Stages I or II to preclude more advanced problems. Other standards may be applicable, and bedsore prevention and treatment standards may vary from state to state.
Identifying Bedsores and Taking Action to Compensate for Bedsore Injuries
Elderly and infirm patients are the most likely population to suffer from injuries caused by bedsores, but that patient population is also least likely to be able to represent or protect itself via a medical negligence action against the facility that caused the bedsore problem. Because of this, bedsore negligence lawsuits are often brought on behalf of the patient by his or her family.
Proving the facility’s negligence can be an uphill challenge, again because the party suffering from bedsores may not be able to testify in his or her defense. Medical facilities and elder care centers maintain their records, which may not show the bedsores or reflect their extent or severity.
The patient’s family should maintain its careful records of their observations, and should document any and all concerns that it may raise with a facility’s staff. If bedsore problems continue, the family can engage an independent physician to examine the patient to independently assess and verify the severity and extent of any bedsores, and the feasibility of taking legal action for damages caused by bedsore injuries.
The Potential Alternative, Non-Negligence-related Causes of Bedsores
Not all bedsores will give rise to a cause of action for medical negligence. A patient may, for example, have conditions which make him or her more susceptible to bedsores, and no amount of treatment or care from a facility may be able to prevent bedsores in that patient.
A plaintiff’s chance of success in any legal case will be a function of the specific facts of that case. Family members who fear that their loved ones are suffering from neglect, negligence or another mistreatment from a care facility should consult with legal counsel as soon as a bedsore problem is detected.
Attorneys who deal with issues, like bedsores that are becoming more common in an aging population, will be able to counsel a family on their options with the facility in question.