Dead In Bed – A New Wave of Malpractice or the Same Concerns?

‘Dead in bed’ malpractice is sweeping the headlines and tragedies are adding up.  Imagine, your loved one’s routine procedure went great, but unexpectedly is found dead or severely brain injured due to lack of oxygen or other adverse effects.  The increasing rate of dead in bed medical malpractice is alarming, but is it a new problem or the same medical negligence wrapped in new packaging?

Classifying ‘Dead in Bed’ 

The term ‘dead in bed’ generally refers to an otherwise healthy patient who experiences death or an adverse event during recovery following a medical procedure.  A patient is left unattended to rest and/or recover from the procedure, only to die unexpectedly. From elective surgeries to required procedures, the cause of death in these cases is not related to complications from the procedure.

Local Investigations in Northeast Ohio

Recent investigations have shed light on the alarming trend. One of the largest investigations was a local study which found that post operative administered medication, specifically opiates, are the leading factor. If misused, opiates can cause critical suppression of a patient’s respiratory system/breathing  – Pain management changes over the last decade may be the single largest factor in the increasing occurrence of ‘dead in bed’.

A confidential ‘dead in bed’ national registry launched two years ago to track cases of this nature. Hospitals are directed to report ‘dead in bed’ cases but many are hesitant or avoid/under- report them.  As estimated 50,000 documented cases during the last decade fall into the ‘dead in bed’ category. Some investigations indicate that pain over-management with drugs is becoming commonplace, since hospitals are essentially awarded federal funding based on patient grades for pain management.

These preventable tragedies are yielding millions in payouts for hospitals right here in Cleveland and across the country.  A recent case in Akron resulted in a women being placed on life support and then died, only to find that her tragic death was preventable – She was served Dilaudid and left unattended.  Instead of using effective and very affordable monitoring solutions, the patient likely had her respiratory system suppressed until the amount of oxygen was no longer viable to support her brain and essential organs.  The same hospital system is under fire for investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in marketing at local athletic facilities, yet bypass the easy monitoring solutions.

The technology is readily available to monitor oxygen levels – It’s just not being used. For a small fee, even patients that are considered low risk in recovery can be monitored around the clock.  In addition, changing the way hospital surveys are performed and how medication is administered can have a profound impact.

If your loved one died in recovery following a surgical procedure, you must call my offices immediately. 

As your Ohio medical malpractice attorney, I’ll be there for you, and I’ll Make Them Pay!®

Author: Tim Misny | For over four decades, personal injury lawyer Tim Misny has represented the injured victim in in birth injurymedical malpractice, and catastrophic injury/wrongful death cases, serving ClevelandAkron/CantonColumbusDayton and neighboring communities. You can reach Tim by email at or call at 877.944.4373.


Article Name
Dead in Bed Medical Malpractice
Cases of 'dead in bed' medical negligence are becoming alarmingly commonplace. Post operative patients are administered potent pain management medications and are not properly monitored, resulting in brain damage, organ failure and death.
Medical Malpractice