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If a patient falls out of bed, could that be malpractice?

Imagine the terrifying experience of being attacked by intruders in your own home. Or, if you walk in the woods a lot, stumbling over a mother bear and her cubs.

You'd probably expect your "fight or flight" response to kick in -- you'd either try to run away from the situation or do whatever you could to protect yourself.

For some people, this is a nightly occurrence due to a condition called "REM behavior disorder." While the dreams the victims have are generally vivid and terrible enough, the reality is even worse -- for whatever reason, victims of this disorder have high levels of brain activity but their muscles do not become paralyzed during REM sleep like those without the disorder.

This allows them to thrash about wildly in bed, and it isn't uncommon for victims of the disorder to scream, kick, punch, jump, run into walls, strike the furniture or fall out of bed. Their injuries can range from a few bruises to broken bones and brain damage. It can also kill them -- an average of 600 people end up dying just from falling from their own beds every year!

How could injuries like broken bones, brain damage or death as a result of this condition be malpractice?

If a physician or hospital is notified that a patient has this condition and fails to take security measures to make certain that patient is safe in bed -- and remains in bed -- any injuries that the patient does to himself or herself is the hospital's responsibility. It may be necessary to restrain a patient with this condition while he or she sleeps.

Similarly, primary care physicians who are aware they have a patient with this disorder should exercise significant caution if they put a patient on any drug that is known to affect dreams or sleep quality. If a patient isn't adequately warned, he or she can't take steps to prevent an injury at home, either.

If you ended up injured due to a fall out of bed, sleepwalking or other unconscious activity because a doctor failed to consider the possible complications caused by a rare condition like REM behavior disorder after a surgery, hospital admittance or change in medication, an attorney can provide more information about a possible medical malpractice claim.

Source: verywell, "What Are REM Behavior Disorder's Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments?," Brandon Peters, MD, a board-certified physician, Oct. 22, 2017

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