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FDA warning targets infection dangers from certain medical scopes

It was just last week that we addressed for the first time the issue of so-called "never events." These are medical errors that health safety experts have identified as being completely preventable situations or conditions in hospitals and clinics which, when they occur, can result in serious injury or possibly even needless death.

That post dealt with the all-too-common occurrence of pressure ulcers, bedsores, in individuals who may be restricted to bed or a wheelchair and who are unable to physically adjust themselves often enough on their own. Professionals in Florida who fail to attend properly to those in their care could be held liable for the damage done from the ulcers.

Well, this week, the headlines carry word of a new warning that has to do with another kind of never event. This one deals with medical devices and the danger they can pose if they aren't properly sterilized in between uses.

Of specific concern and highlighted by the Food and Drug Administration is a certain endoscopic instrument called a duodenoscope that doctors use to probe the internal workings of the human intestinal system.

The problem with the devices in question is that they are so complicated in design that they can be tough to fully sterilize between uses. The FDA warning uses a much more euphemistic phrase, saying that the design "may impede effective reprocessing," but the blunt effect of the problem is that some duodenoscopes can transmit a deadly antibiotic-resistant microbe.

Indeed, two deaths from infection have been confirmed at a hospital in Los Angeles among seven patients known to have been infected from contaminated duodenoscopes. And the hospital says as many as 179 other people have been contacted about possible exposure.

When a death or injury results from professional negligence, a right to seek compensation exists. The next question to be answered is whether a legitimate case for a claim can be made. An attorney's help should always be sought to make that determination.

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