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1058929_backs_at_the_pool.jpgPool drowning lawyers are alarmed at the amount of recent drowning deaths involving small children across the United States. Proper supervision and safety precautions can prevent many of these tragic incidents.

The Sacramento Bee recently reported a drowning episode that led to the death of a 3-year-old South Florida boy. According to public safety officials, the boy was visiting his grandmother’s house when he walked out of a sliding glass door, unsupervised, and fell into her swimming pool.

Family members saw the boy’s shoes floating at the top of the pool and tried to save him, but it was too late. The boy died at the hospital. Sadly, statistics show that this type of fatal accident is happening far too often. Pool drownings are the number one cause of death for young children in this small South Florida community.

The problem is nationwide. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 130 children under the age of 15 drowned in a pool or spa between Memorial Day and Labor Day this year. Additionally, nearly 170 children required emergency assistance for a pool related accident in 2012.

Just less than half of the drownings happened while the child was alone, unsupervised. About 30 of the pool drownings happened while adults were actually present at the pool. Toddlers and young children are particularly susceptible to these tragic accidents. Drowning is the number one cause of accidental deaths among one to four year old children.

In 2012, a dozen states saw the largest number of child and teen pool drownings: Texas – 17 , California – 10, Ohio – 9, Arizona – 8, Michigan – 8, Pennsylvania – 7, Florida – 6, Illinois – 6, North Carolina – 6, Alabama – 5, Georgia – 5, and New York – 5.

There are simple steps that pool owners, parents, and caregivers can take to ensure that children of all ages are safe around spas and pools:

• Everyone (adults and children) should learn how to swim, be familiar with water safety, and know how to adminster CPR.

• Children should not be left unsupervised. Eyes should be on them at all times, especially when they are around large bodies of water. They should be kept away from potentially dangerous openings, such as pipes and pool drains.

• All spas and pools should have adequate safety equipment. This includes life rings, reaching pole, proper drain covers, pool fencing, and a lockable safety cover.

Although children of all nationalities and ethnic backgrounds are susceptible to pool drownings, the CPSC found that African-American and Hispanic children under the age of 5 actually have the highest drowning risk.
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Epilepsy drugs have long been linked to an increase risk of birth defects when ingested during the first trimester of pregnancy. Late last year a study revealed that Tegretol increases the risk of spina bifida, which causes severe brain injuries, learning disabilities and retardation. Another study found that Depakote was twice as likely to cause birth defects, including spina bifida and cleft palates.

Given the likelihood of these adverse events, treating a woman with epilepsy during pregnancy is a challenging task. It may take multiple medications to control seizures and uncontrolled epilepsy can also harm a fetus. Doctors walk a fine line between controlling seizures in pregnant women and reducing developmental problems. A new study of more than 800,000 births may provide some reassurance to doctors and their pregnant patients. In this week’s Journal of the American Medical Association, Danish researchers reported that new epilepsy drugs do not increase the risk of birth defects when taken during pregnancy. Only about 3.2% of children exposed to the newer drugs, which included Lamictal, Trileptal, and Neurontin, were born with birth defects. This percentage is only slightly higher than the 2.4% birth defect risk for children born to women who did not take any anti-epileptic drugs.

Pregnant women still need to be cautious, because the results are limited to a single study and more research needs to be conducted to provide a complete assessment of the risks. Also, researchers did not reach any conclusions about Topomax, which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warn may carry a 16 times higher risk of birth defects.

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Falls are a leading cause of injury for nursing home residents, and the consequences can be life-threatening. Many elderly residents are prone to serious fall-related complications, including broken bones, bruises, and brain injury. Even a fear of falling can harm a resident’s quality of life, causing them to limit their mobility and lose muscle tone or balance.

Several classes of medications have already been shown to increase the risk for falls, including sedatives and antidepressants. New research shows that diuretics, or water pills, can also increase fall risk because they cause dizziness and dehydration. Although it has long been suspected that the use of diuretics contributes to falls, this study is one of the first to conclusively show a causal link. Researchers studied more than 1,000 nursing home residents at the Boston-based Hebrew Rehabilitation Center, all over the age of 60. Results showed that residents who received a new prescription for a diuretic or whose diuretic dosage increased were more than twice as likely to fall within one day of receiving their new prescriptions. Residents using loop diuretics, which increase calcium excretion, were most at risk,

This data shows the importance of implementing fall prevention measures in nursing homes. Surveillance should be increased for at least 2 days following a change in diuretics. Residents should also be instructed to take the medication during the day, because fall risk is elevated at night. Loved ones place a great deal of trust in nursing homes and expect that safety of residents is always a priority. Medications that increase fall risk should be accompanied by increased surveillance and safety measures.

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Thousands of patients have already suffered the adverse effects of Avandia, a popular diabetes drug that poses a serious heart attack risk. Now the federal government is finally stepping in, with an announcement that it will pull Avandia from retail pharmacy store shelves beginning November 18. The drug will be available only through a special mail-order program to diabetic patients who cannot control their blood sugar levels with any other drugs.

Avandia was once the world’s best-selling diabetes pill, generating about $3 billion in revenue for London-based GlaxoSmithKline. Sales dropped in 2007 when the FDA found clear evidence that Avandia was linked to more than 83,000 heart attacks, but the risk was not enough to deter most patients, and the drug still remained in widespread use. A Bloomberg report shows that 235,000 patients filled an Avandia prescription in January.

The FDA severely restricted use of the drug in September 2010, but the latest restriction is much closer to a complete recall. Only a very limited number of patients will be able to receive a prescription for Avandia via a mail order from specially-certified pharmacies. And those patients must also be enrolled in a special program to ensure that they are fully informed about the risks of Avandia before they decide to take the drug.

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In a promising move for all victims of asbestos-related injuries, a Mississippi jury recently awarded a 48-year-old man the single largest plaintiff’s asbestos verdict in history.

In a case against major industrial players Chevron Phillips Chemical and Union Carbide Corporation, Thomas Brown Jr. was awarded $322 for future medical expenses, pain and suffering, and punitive damages. Brown, who worked in the oil fields of Mississippi from the late 1970’s through the early 1980’s, inhaled asbestos dust while on the job. Doctors diagnosed Brown with asbestosis and he is currently on oxygen 24-hours a day.

The consequences of asbestosis are severe. The disease induces lung scarring and shortness of breath, which can worsen over time. Asbestos exposure can also lead to cancer and even death. CP Chemical and Union Carbide continued to market their products long after they knew of the dangers and put innocent workers at risk.

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The decision to allow the insertion of a feeding tube is one of the toughest decisions that families of elderly nursing home residents have to face. Seniors with advanced dementia eventually develop problems eating and swallowing as their disease progresses, and they are unable to speak for themselves. Family members are left struggling with the emotional and controversial decision to allow tube feeding in order to meet the needs of their loved ones.

A recent New York Times report could make this decision even more difficult. Tube feeding is an invasive procedure with serious risks, but there is no evidence that the procedure improves survival rates or prolongs patients’ quality of life. Nevertheless, about a third of elderly nursing home residents with advanced dementia receive feeding tubes based largely on misguided decisions.

Basic time and care can help seniors who have difficulty eating and drinking, and artificial nutrition should only be used as a last resort. But time is a convenience that many nursing homes do not have, and some go so far as to require that elderly patients be fitted with a tube in order to be admitted. This is a disturbing trend that does not afford seniors the respect that they deserve in their final chapter of life. Even when physicians ask for permission to insert a feeding tube, many family members say they feel pressured to agree, or they are not fully informed of the risks involved. These risks include infection, nausea, vomiting, and the possibility that the patient may rip out the tube in distress.

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Medication errors are an unfortunate reality of our healthcare system, as far too many nursing homes are understaffed and ill prepared to meet resident’s needs. These errors not only threaten the health and safety of vulnerable elderly residents, they also cost taxpayers millions of dollars.

The New York Times Old Age Blog revealed a shocking new report from the Department of Health and Human Services that shows hundreds of thousands of elderly nursing home residents with dementia were overmedicated with strong anti-psychotic drugs that increased their risk of death. These drugs include Seroquel, Risperdal, and Zyprexa, which are meant to treat serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia.

There is ample evidence that drug companies have aggressively marketed these anti-psychotic drugs to dementia patients, even though such use is potentially lethal. A series of recent lawsuits and settlements show that drug companies routinely put profits before safety. Eli Lilly pleaded guilty to criminal charges for illegally marketing its drug Zyprexa, Pfizer settled a claim that its anti-psychotic drugs were improperly promoted for off label uses, and federal prosecution is pending against Johnson & Johnson for allegedly paying kickbacks to nursing homes to increase Risperdal prescriptions for dementia patients.

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The dangers associated with metal-on-metal hip implant devices have already prompted thousands of lawsuits in Illinois and across the country. Now regulators are taking a closer look, ordering implant makers to further study the safety of their devices.

The Food and Drug Administration is primarily concerned with metal particles that may be shed into a patient’s bloodstream, causing heart, nervous system, or thyroid gland problems. The agency is seeking more scientific data on the frequency, timing, and severity of these adverse reactions.

Early failure rates and severe health problems led DePuy Orthopedics, a division of Johnson &Johnson, to recall nearly 100,000 of its metal-on-metal hip implants back in August. DePuy is one of more than 20 manufacturers ordered to comply with the FDA’s request.

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Many nursing home employees who provide critical care for our nation’s seniors lack adequate, affordable health care of their own. According to recent estimates, one in four nursing home employees do not have health care coverage.

The new health care law is supposed to fix the problem. Beginning in 2014, the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act will require that all employers who have 50 or more full-time employees offer affordable health care coverage or risk paying a penalty.

A New York Times cover story sheds light on an intense lobbying effort by nursing home and home care agency executives who are seeking an exemption from the law. They argue that their facilities heavily depend on Medicare and Medicaid for revenue, but the programs’ low reimbursement rates make it difficult to provide health insurance to employees. When nursing homes do offer health insurance, the benefits are often limited and employees cannot afford to pay for it.

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The unfortunate reality of our healthcare system is that hospitals designed to help patients often end up causing them even more pain. Each year, preventable medical mistakes contribute to nearly 190,000 deaths and more than 6 million injuries. Among the most common mistakes are procedures performed on the wrong body part, hospital-acquired infections, and medication mix-ups. These are serious adverse events that have serious consequences on the safety and well-being of patients.

A new report by the National Journal shows that patients are being forced to pay for medical errors in more ways than one. Researchers say that as much as 45 cents out of every dollar spent on U.S. health care is related to a medical mistake. Post-surgery infections are the single most expensive cause of harm, costing $3.36 billion in 2008. Bedsores, or pressure ulcers, cost nearly as much and occur just as frequently.

Because one out of every three patients will suffer from a medical mistake, patients are literally putting their physical and financial health at risk every time they step into a hospital. Despite recent efforts to curb medical errors, the problem seems to be worsening. If nearly half of every dollar is spent hurting someone, the medical community needs to be held accountable for their actions. If these avoidable errors continue to occur, patients will be forced to suffer the costly consequences.