Sepsis is a medical emergency caused by an infection. If sepsis isn’t diagnosed and treated immediately, it can lead to organ failure and death. Our nursing home and medical malpractice lawyers see far too many people succumb to sepsis in hospitals and nursing homes.
We’re happy to report that Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner just signed a new law – Gabby’s Law – that will help hospitals diagnose and treat sepsis. The new law requires Illinois hospitals to create and update guidelines on recognizing and treating sepsis, with specific sections on treating children and the elderly.
Gabby’s Law is named after a five-year-old girl from Monticello who died of septic shock four years ago from an undetected tick bite. Gabby Galbo died after ten days at Carle Foundation Hospital.
The law is an amendment to the Hospital Licensing Act. Hospitals must submit their updated guidelines within six months of Gabby's Law's enactment. It requires hospitals to submit sepsis-related data to the Department of Public Health. The Department also must publish guidelines to help hospitals educate staff and develop best practices. The full text of the law can be read here.
Her parents, who received a standing ovation from the Illinois Legislature, filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the hospital. They reached an out-of-court settlement in 2015.
The Galbos now want to pass an Illinois parent’s bill of rights.
What is Sepsis?
Sepsis is the seventh-leading cause of death in the U.S. It’s a complication of an infection, like pneumonia or an UTI. To fight infections, the body releases chemicals into the blood, and these chemicals trigger inflammation. This inflammation – sepsis – can cause organ damage, tissue death, and organ failure.
Sepsis comes on quickly and is often misdiagnosed. If it isn’t treated quickly, sepsis turns into septic shock, which can cause death.
Signs and symptoms of sepsis include:
- Rapid heartbeat (higher than 90 beats per minute)
- Fever above 101F
- Difficulty breathing (respiratory rate higher than 20 breaths per minute)
- Clammy skin
- Shivering and feeling cold
- Pain and discomfort
Unfortunately, there’s no specific test for sepsis, and every patient shows unique symptoms. Sepsis is treated with antibiotics, blood pressure medication, IV fluids, dialysis, or surgery.
Patients and families can take small steps to prevent sepsis, like vaccinating against the flu and pneumonia, washing hands properly, and generally increasing sepsis awareness. Fewer than half of Americans know what sepsis is.
Sepsis in Nursing Homes & Hospitals
Most sepsis cases develop in community settings, like nursing homes. Nursing homes are on the front lines of sepsis prevention and early treatment, since 80% of sepsis cases start outside the hospital.
Nursing homes that fail to educate staff on sepsis may open themselves up to lawsuits if a resident’s sepsis goes untreated.
All patients undergoing surgery risk infection. Certain pre-surgery warming devices, like the Bair Hugger, increase the likelihood that a deadly infection and sepsis will develop. Hundreds of infection lawsuits have been filed against Bair Hugger’s manufacturer.
Defective warming devices may be one reason sepsis deaths in hospitals are increasing. READ MORE.
Protect Your Rights
More people die from sepsis every year than from heart attacks. Hospitals must make more of an effort to catch it early and treat it quickly, and patients have to feel comfortable asking “Could this be sepsis?”
Our team of medical malpractice and nursing home lawyers are hopeful that Gabby’s Law will save lives. If you have any questions about sepsis, medical malpractice, nursing home negligence, or Bair Hugger infections, contact our firm to speak to an attorney for free. We’re available 24/7 to speak to you.