Sepsis is an infection that gets into the bloodstream. It is a very serious condition and can quickly lead to permanent harm or death if not immediately detected and treated. Unfortunately, it often arises in settings where the medical providers themselves have failed to diagnose, treat or monitor the condition.
Infection Begets Infection
Sepsis develops from existing infections. Most often, it will arise from serious infections. However, a small infection in a vulnerable individual can very rapidly turn into a serious infection. In short, for vulnerable individuals or patients such as nursing home residents and correctional inmates, even small infections should be taken seriously. To avoid these minor infections, even seemingly minor cuts, abrasions or skin openings should be properly treated and monitored to prevent the onset of infection.
The Vulnerable are Vulnerable
Perhaps the most notable vulnerable individuals are bedridden nursing home patients. However, sepsis can arise even in hospitals where patients and families have placed their trust and confidence in the hospital, its medical providers and staff. Less well known or visible to the public is the rampant rates of infections that occur in prisons and jails. In each of these settings, one infection including minor infections may mushroom overwhelming the body’s ability to fight it leading to the onset of sepsis.
Misplaced Trust and Reliance
In these settings, patients are unable to care for themselves. They may be bedridden or otherwise immobile. In nursing homes and hospitals, they may be suffering from very serious infections. Indeed, that may be why they are there. Some infections are acquired while in the medical facility as a direct result of treatment and confinement to the medical facility. These are often referred to as hospital acquired conditions but certainly include nursing homes and correctional settings.
These “hospital acquired infections” include for example pneumonia (misplaced feeding tubes), urinary tract infections (contaminated catheters) and pressure sores/bed sores (failure to turn the patient or provide other preventive equipment). Each of these is considered a very serious act of medical negligence. They are considered “never events” and are often non-compensable under the Affordable Care Act. They also are primary precursors to sepsis.
If It’s Prison, It’s Negligence
With regard to prisons and jails, take whatever level of medical negligence leading to such infections and amplify it by several orders of magnitude. Simply put, if it is prison medical care, it is negligent medical care. The negligence is baked into the contracts, the staffing and the utter contempt with which many medical providers in prisons and jails view their patients. Little infections are trivialized. It would be a laughable matter to view them otherwise. Worse, large infections are ignored until the point at which the patient/inmate is in critical condition requiring immediate transport to and a lengthy stay in an outside hospital. Collins & Collins, P.C. sees these fairly regularly.
In the case of nursing home patients and inmates, these are often forgotten individuals with nobody to look after them. Nursing homes and prison medical providers rely and prey upon this fact. In short, they expect to get away with it. Given that sepsis costs Medicare $2 billion per year (this excludes the costs to those falling outside Medicare such as privately insured or uninsured), it is not only morally unconscionable to ignore the suffering of these silenced individuals, its economically imperative to hold the offending medical providers accountable.
Deserving of Investigation
If you or loved one has contracted sepsis in a hospital, nursing home, prison or jail, then you should seriously consider the fact that medical malpractice has occurred. In nursing homes, prisons and jails, it often goes well beyond medical negligence to what may be deemed under the law “reckless, willful and wanton” disregard for the health, safety and life of the patient. In other words, they just did not care one way or another about the patient. To be perfectly clear, it is something that should be investigated with the assistance of an experienced attorney.