Title

Standards of Medical Care Based on Consensus Rather than Evidence: The Case of Routine Bedrail Use for the Elderly

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

12-1983

ISSN

0277-8459

Publisher

American Society of Law, Medicine & Ethics

Language

en-US

Abstract

“An 88-year-old male patient was found on his hands and knees on the floor beside his bed. The bedrails were up.”—From an indent report filed by a nurse at the Stillman Infirmary, University Health Services, Harvard University, in May 1980.

Finding elderly patients lying on the floor beside their beds despite the presence of elevated bedrails seems paradoxical: how can a patient fall out of bed when the bedrails are up? Surprisingly, this paradox constitutes one of the leading incidents plaguing hospitals in the United States today. It exemplifies a much larger problem created, we believe, by the uncritical adoption of measures designed to enhance patient welfare, but which may in fact undermine it. This article documents our experience with bedrails, reviews the literature, and comments on the rationale for routine adoption of bedrails for the hospitalized elderly. It concludes by advocating that a randomized, controlled study be conducted to determine whether bedrails constitute protection or a hazard to the average elderly patient.

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