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California hospitals plagued by superbugs and wrongful death

Ongoing antibiotic resistance has led to so-called superbugs that are incredibly difficult for patients to fight off. This epidemic causes thousands of annual deaths in California, but many patients remain wholly unaware of the superbugs that plague certain hospitals. In some instances, revealing this type of information might allow a patient to choose a different hospital, ultimately helping his or her family to avoid the pain and suffering a wrongful death can cause.

Not only does the state of California not track any deaths that occur from infections acquired inside of a hospital, but these facilities are not required to report infections of lethal superbugs. Without this information, there is little to stop the spread of these antibiotic-resistant strains. To further complicate the matter, the true cause of death is rarely listed on the death certificate.

In May 2014, a 72-year-old woman went under the knife to address a bleeding ulcer. Mere hours after the completion of the surgery, she developed a fever, and her health began to rapidly deteriorate. She had contracted a superbug while under the hospital's care. Five weeks later, she died because of complications caused by the infection. Her death certificate, however, indicated her death had been caused by septic shock and respiratory failure that were a result of her ulcer.

Around half of all victims who contract CRKP -- the superbug that killed the ulcer patient -- die from related complications. Since it is currently not a reportable infection, one of the only ways to ascertain a victim's actual cause of death is to review the medical bills to uncover the conditions for which he or she was treated. Still, without the ability to inform patients which hospitals are most ravaged by superbugs, patients are not able to make fully informed decisions regarding their care.

Experts believe that hospitals have the power to prevent the spread of these infections but that many California facilities fail to engage in even basic control procedures. As a result, more patients are exposed to the deadly infections. When a wrongful death is the result of a facilities negligent care to either fully inform patients or to take necessary preventative steps, surviving family members are often able to achieve just compensation on the decedent's behalf through the successful filing of a civil claim.

Source: theledger.com, "Hospitals not reporting deaths caused by superbugs", Melody Petersen, Oct. 8, 2016

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