Checklists: Avoiding Sepsis, Saving Lives

June 23, 2017 | Crandall & Pera Law
Checklists: Avoiding Sepsis, Saving Lives

Sepsis is a systemic infection that kills one-quarter of the patients who contract it, but hospitals are taking a new approach to preventing and managing the illness. Even the most slight of injuries can expose patients to danger. Sepsis can follow even a minor infection, but can lead to grave consequences. Medical professionals in New York state are tackling the problem with the least likely resource—red tape. Application of a detailed checklist can help prevent sepsis, diagnose it early, and make sure best practices are followed for treatment—all of which lead to better outcomes for patients. When hospitals do not adhere to these protocols, patients can die, and doctors can be held legally responsible.

What is sepsis?

The human body has a few methods of handling infection: fever, white blood cells, and antibodies. In healthy people with minor cases, the person may not even realize he or she has an infection, because the immune system handles the problem swiftly and efficiently. In more serious cases, the signs of an infection like a high or prolonged fever, swelling, redness, malaise, and pain lead sufferers to seek medical treatment. In some cases, the immune response goes awry, leading the body’s defenses to attack healthy tissue—the beginning of sepsis. Without intervention, sepsis progresses to abnormal temperature (high or low), high heart rate, high respiratory rate, decrease in urine output (as the kidneys become unable to cope with the influx of material), altered mental status, changes in cardiac rhythm, pain, and low blood pressure. Not every patient with sepsis will experience every symptom, and many of the symptoms experienced can be confused with symptoms of other infectious processes. This means that sepsis can be missed, particularly in patients who have co-occurring or acute health issues.

Utilization of a checklist

In the New York case of Rory Staunton, age 12, a fall at school and subsequent infection led to a tragic outcome after sepsis set in. Staunton’s family came together with medical professionals and lawmakers to create “Rory’s Regulations,” which require hospitals to work through a series of checklists when presented with a patient suspected of suffering from sepsis. Because delays in treatment result in increased mortality, the checklist’s ability to facilitate and speed the ministration process at other hospitals in the US has already resulted in an estimated 22% reduction in post-surgical deaths.

No checklist, however, can take the place of involved and informed doctors, nurses, and aides working directly with patients, observing their vital signs and symptoms, making educated diagnoses, and prescribing proven treatments. When sepsis is missed, or treatment is unnecessarily delayed, the results for patients can be fatal, and families can be left bereft and baffled by the loss of their loved one. In these times, legal counsel can provide guidance, assurance, and assistance in making sure that hospitals are held accountable.

If you or a family member has been injured or died after contracting sepsis and not receiving timely or adequate treatment, please contact the experienced Kentucky and Ohio medical negligence lawyers at Crandall & Pera Law. We will meet with you to discuss your family’s individual situation and help to get you the justice and compensation you deserve. For a free consultation, call our Kentucky legal team at 877.651.7764, our Ohio legal team at 877.686.8879, or contact us today.