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Monday, January 1, 2007

In Her Second Trimester: Medical device and overdose lawsuit

Sylvia Lane was 17 weeks pregnant. Diabetic, she lay in her bed in her Lynnwood, Washington apartment, comatose and alone, her blood and brain in desperate need of sugar. But the medical device she'd just received instead kept pumping insulin into her body, starving her brain. Her husband was on an aircraft carrier, halfway round the world. The small pump had a safety feature designed to stop the insulin flow in emergencies like this. But the feature had never been turned on. The pump had been shipped to her with the option turned off, and she hadn't known about the "auto-off" safety feature. She suffered severe and permanent brain damage. And her doctors determined that her growing fetus had suffered irreparable harm; she was not able to have the baby. Her family sued Medtronic Inc. — the parent company of the pump's manufacturer — claiming the pump was unsafe. Her family reached a settlement with Medtronic whose details have only now come to light. This riveting story is reported by Ken Armstrong and Justin Mayo.

Advice to patients: Before you use any pump, make sure you know what safeguards in the pump's design might prevent an overdose.

For another story of multiple errors caused by a machine, see The Machine Was the Perp.