This week the settlement documents were released — closing the chapter on the lawsuit that arose from the seminal event in MRI safety, the 2001 oxygen tank fatality of then-six-year-old Michael Colombini.
Nearly nine years after the accident, the lawsuit was settled for $2.9 million, a settlement that was likely both diminished by, and made possible by, a pre-trial motion which excused GE Healthcare as a defendant to the suit.
The county-owned hospital, which almost immediately asserted its responsibility for the accident, ultimately settled the case on behalf of all of the remaining defendants, which included the head of radiology and the technologist who administered the boy’s scan.
Perhaps now, with the lawsuit resolved, we can actually learn something about the events that precipitated this tragedy, beyond the fragmentary slivers of information gleaned from court documents and news accounts.
That’s right, despite the fact that this one event has become the touchstone for MRI safety, there has not been a single root-cause analysis to inform MRI suite design, departmental operations, regulatory and accreditation frameworks… at least not one that has been shared with the public.
Hopefully, with the lawsuit resolved and jeopardy attached for all defendants, we can have an open conversation about what contributed to the accident and what can be done, at the thousands of MRI suites across the country, to help see that this sort of accident never recurs. Based on recent news accounts and last year’s shocking collection of ferromagnetic projectile accidents, the lessons from the Colombini tragedy are still profoundly needed.
If we are willing to explore this darkest chapter in the brief history of MRI, we may learn lessons that will help protect the 30 million Americans who will receive MRI’s this year, and next year, and the year after that.
If we fail, next year we’ll be able to look back at this moment, wistfully, and imagine young Michael getting his drivers’ license, or attending his junior prom, on the verge of adulthood. But he is forever trapped in 2001… a victim of circumstances he had no control over.
Let’s see what we can do, together, to help make sure that this never happens again.
My heartfelt thoughts and prayers are extended to the Colombini family.Tobias Gilk, President & MRI Safety Director Mednovus, Inc. Tobias.Gilk@Mednovus.com www.MEDNOVUS.com