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Medical Malpractice Newsletter

Hospital-Acquired Infections Can Kill

A nosocomial infection, or hospital-acquired infection, is an infection that was contracted in a hospital. Such infections can be the result of many different factors including poorly sterilized equipment, defective equipment design (not allowing for proper cleaning) or hospital staff negligence. As with any medical malpractice claim, several aspects must be scrutinized to determine liability.

Hospital-Acquired Infections – More Common Than Car Accident Fatalities

Recent reports indicate that hospital-acquired infection fatalities are more common than car accident and fire and drowning fatalities combined. In fact, hospital-acquired infections are the fifth leading cause of death in the United States, after heart disease, cancer, stroke and respiratory ailments.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that one out of every twenty people admitted to a hospital will get a nosocomial infection. This statistic indicates that each year two million infections will occur, leading to approximately 90,000 deaths. Over 2,500 babies each year contract fatal hospital acquired infections. As such, infection control is a major issue amongst medical practitioners.

Often times nosocomial infections can easily be prevented. Measures such as washing hands between patients or implementing careful systematic equipment cleaning procedures can prevent an unnecessary infection. Understaffed hospitals are also a major concern for effective infection control.

Analyzing a Hospital-Acquired Infection Claim

If a hospital or surgical team is found liable for an infection acquired by a patient due to negligence, the legal ramifications can be severe. Consequently, thorough analysis of nosocomial infection claims is imperative. Rules and procedures for the analysis of such a claim will differ from state to state, but will generally adhere to the following format:

  • A hospital or surgical team committed an error in the plan to reduce infection exposure
  • A reasonable hospital or surgical team would not have committed such an error
  • The error was the cause of the resulting infection

Additional factors will also be examined, including the reason for the original hospital visit, the risk of the type of infection contracted by the patient, the risk of contraction of each individual patient and steps taken to reduce exposure to infection.

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