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Contaminated tubes suspected in baby deaths

DDP/The Local · 23 Aug 2010, 16:35

Published: 23 Aug 2010 08:34 GMT+02:00
Updated: 23 Aug 2010 16:35 GMT+02:00

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Eleven babies in the intensive care unit were exposed to the tainted feeding drips, and one was still fighting for its life, according to officials at the University Medical Centre of the Johannes Gutenberg University.

Clinic head Dr. Norbert Pfeiffer said the critically ill baby was not expected to survive, but four other infants were now in stable condition.

“I'm deeply shocked,” Pfeiffer said. “We are all very distraught and upset and our sympathies goes out to the parents and families.”

Senior public prosecutor Klaus-Peter Mieth said on Monday the deadly infections were caused by dirty tubing used for feeding the babies.

“The tubes are the only place on the machines that the workers touch directly and could therefore add bacteria,” Mieth said.

His office is now investigating on suspicion of negligent manslaughter and negligent bodily harm in the case.

“Once we’ve isolated the germs, then we will also have a chance at catching the actual cause,” Mieth said, but added that it remains unclear whether the contamination was the cause of death to the two infants, who were both already critically ill before they were exposed.

The clinic, however, believes it may be possible the bacteria found its way into the infusions in the hospital pharmacy.

Head of the Rhineland-Palatinate state office of criminal investigation’s biology department Rainer Wensel said the room used to prepare the solutions was held to the highest standards of hygiene. Preparation equipment has been seized for further investigation.

The two infants who died, a two-month-old and an eight-month-old, were being treated in the intensive care unit when they received the drip, prepared by the hospital pharmacy from different components from separate producers.

By Saturday morning their health had rapidly deteriorated, at which point doctors gave antibiotics to all of the other babies possibly exposed.

Story continues below…

Police and state prosecutors in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate conducted autopsies on both of the babies in Mainz, confirming without a doubt that they had been exposed to the bacteria.

Meanwhile the director of the university medical centre’s pharmacy Irene Krämer said that the infusions were prepared individually for each baby, with more than 90,000 problem-free drips over the past 10 years.

But in these cases human error could not be ruled out, she said, because during the preparation of the drips workers changed their gloves about 30 minutes into the process.

DDP/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

11:18 August 23, 2010 by freechoice
it is sad that your loves ones have to be sacrificed for the negligence of others.
11:55 August 23, 2010 by AirForceGuy
In the US, this would mean a BIG lawsuit and a HUGE payout, but no admission of guilt.
12:13 August 23, 2010 by pdj
I agree with Gabi1. Some nurses and lab techs don't take the time to wear gloves. I remember when a doctor was going to use a slimy ultrasound probe on my belly! I also got the snarly look after I pointed it out.
12:50 August 23, 2010 by duckys
I am sure that we all have our horrid stories of German hospitals... Ingolstadt hospital is really horrible... nurses smoking outside on the balcony while people are on oxygen in the next room!

You know some Europeans may laugh about malpractice in America... but seeing such a bad thing happen to families that were stressed anyways as there children are in intensive care...

Now... the idea doesn't look so bad... Doctors and Nurses should start answering to there mistakes and perfect way would be introducing malpractice into Germany....

These children did not even have a chance to live as someone was too lazy....

If this was my child.... well... i would be in prison...
17:50 August 23, 2010 by Surf City
Sad... no excuse!!

(In the US, this would mean a BIG lawsuit and a HUGE payout, but no admission of guilt.)

That wouldnt happen in the US....

Maybe they all could learn something from the US.!!
21:15 August 23, 2010 by doc.nemo
"...I am sure that we all have our horrid stories of German hospitals" - No, I have not! I had worked several years in different German hospitals and had never encountered rusty and dirty material. In ICUs, moreover, regulations are far more rigorous than in the normal wards. As long as wo do not know the reasons for this incidents, there is no one and nothing to blame!!! Wait until the investigation has delivered definitive results, then you can talk big. But as long as you do not know the culprits, keep quiet.

"That wouldnt happen in the US...." - Quote from Wikipedia: That does not sound like it wouldn't happen in the US.
09:09 August 24, 2010 by Prufrock2010
The tragic thing is that occurrences like this DO happen in the US, but at least in the US the victims are allowed to sue for compensatory and punitive damages in cases of medical malpractice. I'm informed that it's quite different here. Please correct me if I'm wrong.
09:45 August 24, 2010 by doc.nemo
I owe you the quote from Wikipedia from my last post. Here it is:

"In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that roughly 1.7 million hospital-associated infections, from all types of bacteria combined, cause or contribute to 99,000 deaths each year."

Yes, it is very sad what happended and it is necessary to investigate into this. But I have the impression that in the US it is all about money due to the inglorious tradition of punitive damages. You can make a fortune out of a stroke of fate - even if it is no more than a tiny bit of scalded skin on a thigh (even by own stupidity). I hope, Germany will never adopt this kind of legislation. If there was a fault in the clinic's organisation and handling, then there must be some kind of compensation, but within a reasonable range. As long as we do not know the reasons, though, we should not call for compensation. Or is money the most important thing in these tragedies? Untimely proclaiming of scapegoats and reduction to money disgraces the victims.
19:50 August 25, 2010 by Prufrock2010
doc nemo --

"...in the US it is all about money due to the inglorious tradition of punitive damages."

With all due respect, you don't know what you're talking about. Your "scalded skin" reference is obviously an oblique reference to a bizarre McDonald's case in which a woman was awarded excessive pain-and-suffering damages for spilling coffee on herself. That case was an anomaly that so-called "tort reform" advocates have used to try to cap civil recoveries, thus to deprive many worthy litigants with legitimate claims their day in court, as most negligence, tort and malpractice claims are handled by plaintiffs' attorneys working on a contingent fee basis. However, that's a subject for another day.

Your mistake is confusing pain-and-suffering awards in the case of gross negligence with punitive damages awards, which can only be made in the case of an intentional tort, a violation of a legally imposed duty, or by statute. The purpose of punitive damages awards is to punish and make an example of the tortfeasor because you can't put him or her (or the corporation) in jail. Punitive damages are only awarded when the civil wrong is so egregious as to shock the conscience of civilized society. Pain-and-suffering awards are appropriate in cases of gross negligence leading to serious injury or death, as in this case. Compensatory damages should be available to the surviving relatives, and in the US would usually be calculated according to actuarial tables. Pain-and-suffering damages are not quantifiable, and would be left to a jury to decide. Unfortunately, Germany does not seem to have such legal provisions available to victims of negligence -- or, in this case, gross negligence.

In other words, in the US if you are injured in an automobile accident where someone else was at fault, that person and his insurance company would be obliged to pay compensatory damages as well as damages for pain-and-suffering according to proof. However, if the driver who caused the accident was drunk at the time, he would be subject to punitive damages as well, because he had a legal duty not to drive under the influence.
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