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Last week, the Consumer Product Safety Commission announced a major crib recall, reporting that 1 million Simplicity and Graco cribs have been recalled after three children became entrapped and suffocated, including a 9-month-old child who died. But bed rail entrapment is a danger not limited to the young. It continues to injure and kill many elder Americans every year.

It is estimated that there are approximately 3 million hospital beds currently in use in the United States. Between 1985 and 2004, the FDA received approximately 600 reports of bed rail entrapment, which included the deaths of 358 people. It is believed that most incidents of bed rail entrapment go unreported. Closer to home, we filed a lawsuit earlier this year against a San Diego residential care facility for the elderly after our client, an elderly woman suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, was found dead in her room with her head lodged in a open gap in her bed rails.

What can you do to keep your loved one safe? It’s fairly simple. Demand that any hospital bed with bedrails being used meets the dimensional guidelines set forth by the FDA. The FDA has identified seven entrapment zones and has issued guidelines to bed manufacturers, distributors, hospitals, and nursing facilities to prevent bed rail entrapment. Beds and rails that meet these requirements greatly reduce the risk of injury or death due to entrapment.

Finally, be very careful about “legacy beds” – beds on the market, often used, that don’t meet the FDA guidelines because they were designed and manufactured before the FDA guidelines were published in 2006. The market is flooded with these beds, and can often be found for cheap in classified ads. If you have questions about whether a bed meets the guidelines, call your local distributor of durable medical equipment or visit the website of the bed’s manufacturer.

For more information on this subject, please refer to the section on Defective and Dangerous Products.

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