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. Tobias.Gilk@Mednovus.com www.MEDNOVUS.com