Countdown To Colombini – Under 100 Days.

Indeed. Nearly 8 years later, the civil lawsuit trial surrounding the infamous death of a 6-year old boy is scheduled to begin in March of 2009.

The multi-million dollar lawsuit has been grinding through the legal system as a myriad of claims and counter-claims have been ricocheting around among the parties. Those who’ve been watching the pre-trial activities may attest to it sometimes resembling a soap-opera with shifting alliances, but it appears that the parties’ day in court will come in less than 100 days.

While skillful lawyering often has as much to do with the outcome of civil actions as do the merits of the case, the merits fall clearly in favor of the family, and are squarely against the combined defense which includes the Medical Director, hospital, Technologists, and the MRI manufacturer.

The young boy was not the first patient to die in an MR and, given the current MRI accident trajectory, won’t be the last (and already isn’t according to some anecdotal accounts). What makes this incident such a touchstone, however, are the incidental facts surrounding the boy’s death.

First, could there be a more sympathetic victim than a young boy who had just survived the removal of an otherwise fatal brain tumor? Second, this fatality was splashed across CNN and newspapers and was not immediately gagged with non-disclosure agreements and out-of-court settlements which is common of many MRI injuries. Lastly, as the spark that ignited the MRI safety movement, many industry watchers will follow this case if only to observe the epilogue. But odds are that the civil trial will be as central to MRI safety as the original accident was.

Nearly 8 years after-the-fact and there is not a single MRI safety requirement that has been imposed that would short-circuit the sequence of events that caused the accident in the first place. There is an impressive list of recommendations and best-practice calls from a heretofore unrelated collection of professional and accrediting bodies, but no requirements.

Would a multi-million dollar judgment change that? I think that it would. I think that the fear of a high-profile lawsuit and a huge judgment would spur action in ways that the accident which precipitated it hasn’t.

We may all learn, in about 100 days, whether I’m right or not… whether the echo of this incident is as loud as the event itself.

Tobias Gilk, President & MRI Safety Director
Mednovus, Inc.

UPDATE: Details of the finalized lawsuit settlement are available here.

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