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Medical Malpractice

Shared Syringes Put Patients at Risk

November 18, 2013 | Michael Barasch

While transmission of infection through use of shared needles is often considered a problem of illicit drug users, the danger may be closer than you think. 

In January of this year, more than 1,900 patients received letters from New York Hospital concerning blood testing needed to rule out disease transmission from shared insulin pens. An internal hospital investigation had determined single-use pens were used for multiple patients, possibly spreading chronic or fatal disease among patients. 

While using a syringe and vial for only one patient may seem like common sense, research by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) reveals disturbing statistics, including: 

  • 1 percent of respondents to a 2010 health survey indicated they sometimes or always reuse a syringe after changing the needle.
  • 6 percent of survey respondents noted they reuse vials marked for single use.
  • 9 percent of respondents stated they sometimes or always use a common bag of IV solution to dilute drug solutions for multiple patients. 

Whether the healthcare professionals are cutting corners or are simply uninformed about healthcare-acquired infections, these practices put patients at serious risk. To combat poor healthcare practices in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) promotes safe healthcare protocols, including the following: 

  • All syringes and needles are single-use devices and cannot be reused.
  • Single-dose vials or IV bags cannot be used for multiple patients.
  • A surgical mask is required when injecting medication into the spinal canal. 

Infection caused by contaminated syringes in a medical setting should not be a risk of American healthcare. If you are injured in New York, speak with an experienced injury attorney.

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