MRI Technologist Sues For MRI Safety

Nearly all MRI accidents that wind up the subject of civil lawsuits conclude the same way… in confidential settlement protected by a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). This makes it extremely difficult to get to the facts associated with any particular accident. Currently the highest profile MRI accident (the death of a young boy from a flying oxygen cylinder) is in pre-trial litigation and is our best window into the legal responsibility of Technologists and providers. Today, however, I learned of another suit in which a Tech is suing her former employer for willfully putting off needed system repairs that compromised image quality and diagnostic value.

The Technologist, Laura Price, claims that her former employer, Horizon Diagnostic Center in Orange Park, FL, ignored repeated requests from Ms. Price and other Technologists to repair the coils on the MRI, and that the image quality was so poor as to compromise the clinical value of the scans. She was purportedly fired for insisting that the coils be repaired. She is suing for wrongful termination and has taken her efforts public in an interview with a local television news station.

What is particularly interesting (to me at least) is that there is not currently any claim of injury or misdiagnosis based on the claimed failure to keep the MRI equipment in operational condition. Therefore, this is strictly a claim against the practices of the provider and their adherence to standards of care and best practices.

Though the MRI fatality case has yet to go to trial (having been postponed ad nasuem for years, now), the Technologists are named defendants in that suit, suggesting at least that Techs have a legal obligation for safety and the standard of care.

This Florida suit is intriguing because it puts operations squarely in the legal crosshairs. When legal liability is tied only to injury, it fosters an ‘ends justify the means’ culture of safety. Something akin to, “if we haven’t hurt anybody, it proves that we’re doing things right.”

Many patient safety experts decry this sort of ‘negative proof’ of safety. Getting all the way across the freeway unscathed, on foot, blindfolded, is not proof that walking blindfolded across the freeway is a safe practice, yet this is the logic that prevades MR safety at many locations.

Whatever you may think of this one case, or the Technologist who is bringing it, I am very interested simply because it does put safety practices in the spotlight. I’m also very interested in what you may think of this, so please share your comments, below.

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

7 thoughts on “MRI Technologist Sues For MRI Safety

  1. Michael Gilliam

    I agree that these cases will greatly effect the safety practices of all MRI technologist working in the field because they will undoubtedly be used by all sides of the issues as having set precedence. I was taught that we are not only held responsible for the safety of the patient, ourselves and the staff that we work with, but that we are also held to the written account of events. It will be interesting to see how this wrongful termination suite turns out as it will likely effect the standards of how damage is recorded at sites by technologists as well as how well the employer records the reasons for dismissal. If you havn’t followed the official policies of your profession then you are liable just as if you have but havn’t properly recorded it.

  2. Jonathon D Grossman

    There are so many questions left to be answered such as: Was this facility ACR accredited? Were broken coils (ie with exposed wires etc) used on patients? Was the facility losing business due to inferior image quality? I could go on with more. The heart of the matter to me is the mindset of “we have never had an accident so we must be operating safely.” I have witnessed this kind of dangerous complacency infect an entire MRI department, but attempting to affect a change from a staff level position is next to impossible in my experience. You can be as tactful and well referenced with your presentation but without support from the chain of command it is almost futile. Why? Because they are blinded to the dangers since they have become comfortable in the mode of operation without serious incident, OR if there were incidents they are most likely not reported-which was the case with an employer I worked for.

    The best solution that I have found as a staff level employee when all attempts at helping improve the practices of a facility fail is to find another job elsewhere. You’ve done your part in identifying the problem, but it isn’t your responsibility to correct it and so it is better to find an opportunity elsewhere than to fight with an employer who isn’t looking to grow. Think about it, if they’re producing sub-standard images and aren’t maintaining their equipment, then there is a serious opportunity for competition to shut them out of the market. Maybe this girl’s energy could have been better focused on opening a new imaging center down the street!

  3. Pingback: MRI for Technologists | Medical Imaging Science

  4. Justine

    I had an MRI today where they were putting me out for it. Gave me the run through of having no metal but when we walked in the room a pen came flying out of my anesthesiologists pocket right above my head and landed against the machine! I am already a phobic patient and after this I wanted to just walk out ! However, my nurses were so great and nice that I stayed but the anesthesiologist was an arrogant and nasty person! This is the first time I have had any trouble with this hospital as they are always so nice and accommodating of my needle phobia . This episode had definitely left me shaken! Also when he was ordered to use gas sedation as ordered by my doctor, he tried to use laughing gas and then an IV. And I rmember saying that I’m still awake a few times and I grabbed he nurses hand! Then when I started to panic, the doctor said I usually would do this and gave me something else that put me out! It always really a horrible overall experience! I would love to know what he used and what wasn’t working and what he gave me and why the hell as a doctor didn’t he check for metal objects before entering an MRI room!

  5. Tobias Gilk Post author


    I’m sorry to hear that your anxiety made your MRI exam difficult. Quite frankly, there’s no acceptable reason for any healthcare provider (who may come into the room to tend to you) to not go through a full screening for objects that could become magnetic projectiles. In fact, it is now (as of July 1, 2015) a requirement of Joint Commission accredited providers (which is most hospitals in the USA) to document these types of mishaps. I can understand how, in your case, it made an anxious situation even more so.

    If the facility you obtained your MRI scan from is a Joint Commission accredited facility, you can report your experience to them here. The specific criteria that the hospital must (minimally) follow is:

    The hospital collects data on the following:

      Incidents where ferromagnetic objects unintentionally entered the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner room
      Injuries resulting from the presence of ferromagnetic objects in the MRI scanner room

    While the event during your MRI exam didn’t produce an injury, it does sound like it was an unintentional introduction of a ferromagnetic object.

    I hope this helps, Justine.

  6. Heidi Peyton

    What about the people that experience the worst thing in my life. I have a 9inch plate,6 srews and a big rod in my left humerous I told them but they said its fine because it happened so long ago, I spiral fatured it in 6 places that why i have metal and also bone added to the whole deal. mri people sent me in. i was here there for 15 minutes before they turned it off. my whole body was sparking and lights stuff goig off and i was feeling i was in a really bad star wars or something. my arms have been dumb and getting worse. this was the scariest thing in my life. I really that it was going to kill me. i chatteted my theet so hard that a brand new brigde completely broke in pieces the days following.
    im still misserable and I dont know if I have a protection or rights because they hurt me. No body seems to beleive me, or they cant imagine the torture i went thru.
    Do you have any advice for me?

  7. Tobias Gilk Post author


    What you describe doesn’t sound similar to any MRI adverse event that I’m aware of. Did you talk with the MRI provider and did they provide you with any explanation for what you experienced?

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