Medical Malpractice: Alarm Fatigue Threatens Patient Safety

April 25th, 2024

Failure to diagnose, misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis topped the list of medical malpractice claims family physicians faced.

By Dean I Weitzman, Esq.


Hospitalized patients face many risks in the aftermath of major surgery or during treatment for a severe illness. Medication errors, infection risks, improper charting and failures to respond to patient complaints can lead to immediate complications with tragic consequences. One example of nurse malpractice that has gained recent attention is “alarm fatigue” – failing to respond to warnings from cardiac monitors, respiratory monitors and other machines that track a patient’s vital signs.

A recent Boston Globe investigation showed how increased dependence on monitoring devices can compromise patient safety when nurses and doctors fail to respond with urgency due to false alarms and relentless beeping. The story featured one 15-patient unit at Johns Hopkins Hospital where critical alarms sounded almost 1,000 times every day, or once every 90 seconds.

Under such circumstances, staff can easily become desensitized to alarms or distracted when a patient is in distress. In addition to this, there are incidents where faulty monitors fail to work as designed or nurses fail to turn on or properly reset a monitor after a false alarm, and the threats to patient health and safety begin to escalate.

Plain and simple, such substandard care amounts to medical malpractice. When patients suffer injury or death as a result, justice demands that they be able to hold hospital administrators and health care professionals accountable.

Hospital Negligence Attorneys Must Master the Medical Details

Like cases based on birth injuries, misdiagnosis, radiological errors and other types of medical malpractice, claims of nursing negligence involving alarm fatigue combine many complex factors. An experienced medical malpractice attorney working with medical experts must assess everything from complex medical records to the full extent of the harm suffered by the patient.

Sophisticated medical devices and innovative procedures are implemented to protect patients and improve their prospects for a full recovery. When the opposite happens, a diligent search for the truth can uncover faulty protocols that would otherwise threaten future patients. By enlisting representation from a law firm that understands all aspects of medical negligence lawsuits, a patient or surviving family members can pursue the compensation they need while promoting safer health care for all.

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