Sepsis is a medical condition that some people refer to as "blood poisoning." It is always triggered by an infection. Once it starts, it can quickly lead to widespread organ failure and death. The worst part, however, is that many cases of sepsis are the result of substandard hygiene practices in healthcare facilities and hospitals, and the symptoms are often ignored until it is too late to reverse the damage that's been done. If someone you loved died from "blood poisoning" (or "septic shock"), this is what you should know.
Hospital-Acquired Infections Are Killing People
Sepsis is an autoimmune response by the body as it tries to fight off any number of infections—which means that any infection could potentially result in this life-threatening illness. All too often, hospital patients become the victims of bacterial infections from improperly cleaned surgical tools, dirty catheters, unclean sheets, or a nurse's unwashed hands.
The early symptoms of sepsis can include things like a slight rash, a low fever, or complaints from the patient that he or she is experiencing hot or cold chills. The symptoms could be mistaken for a medication reaction, some aspect of the underlying condition that put them in the hospital, or just irritability. Even when the sepsis progresses, it often leads to irrational behavior and confusion, because of the effect it can have on a patient's brain. If the patient is elderly, the symptoms may be dismissed as mild dementia brought on by unfamiliar surroundings.
It's estimated that 648,000 people in the U.S. develop infections every year during their hospital stay. Of these, 75,000 will die—which means that more people die of hospital-acquired infections every year than car crashes. That's a staggering amount of deaths.
Families Often Don't Realize The Sepsis Could Have Been Prevented
Hospitals aren't particularly eager to acknowledge that something inside the building or a failure on the part of their medical staff are behind deaths from septic shock. Once the sepsis is finally recognized, the patient is usually put on high-powered antibiotics and steroids to combat both the infection and the autoimmune reaction that's spiraling out of control.
The families of these patients may not be directly lied to, but they may not be expressly told that their loved one picked up the infection that led to the sepsis during his or her hospital stay. Often, family members are left believing that the septic shock that took the life of their loved one was just "one of those things" that sometimes happens after surgery or when someone is seriously ill.
It is true that not every bacterial infection or case of sepsis starts inside the hospital. Some patients come in with an infection that turns septic before it can be stopped. Others are already septic when they come into the hospital. However, if your loved one developed sepsis after a seemingly normal surgery or after an illness that didn't seem related, you should ask questions about how and when the infection that led to the sepsis started. If you determine that it started in the hospital or you aren't getting clear answers, you may want to consult with a wrongful death attorney.