First, let me say that this isn’t a ‘leak’ in the sense that none of the information I’m about to share is (any longer) confidential. This information is all public record as a result of court filings for the now-settled civil suit surrounding the 2001 MRI fatality of Michael Colombini. There are documents associated with that civil lawsuit which did not wind up as filings with the court and therefore are not a part of the public record. I have no difficulty not releasing those because (among other reasons) I don’t have any of them.
“Why — now — ten years later would you post these documents?”
Excellent question! Here’s why I didn’t publish these long ago…
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.
It is the stuff of fabled oral-histories, often dismissed as MRI urban-legend. The patient is wheeled into the MRI room on a gurney that goes flying toward the scanner. “How on Earth could these accidents happen when we know about these risks,” the skeptics question? Almost never does more than a single fragment of information surface about these sorts of accidents and, without verification, nearly all accounts can be erroneously written-off as fiction. Or, that was until enough pieces fell into place to conclusively document a recent episode… Click Here To Read More About MRI Gurney Accidents…
That’s right. Yesterday, October 26th, the Colombini family formally accepted a settlement offer for the MRI vs. oxygen tank accident which killed their 6-year-old son in 2001. The settlement puts to rest 8 years of litigation resulting from the single largest MRI safety incident in the industry’s consciousness. And though precedent-setting verdicts won’t result, the dollar-value of the settlement will likely cause many MRI providers to sit up and take notice.
Last month, the judge in the Michael Colombini lawsuit (the case resulting from the infamous death by oxygen tank / cylinder brought into the MRI room while the boy was in the scanner) decided on three of the last outstanding pre-trial motions. The Judge’s decisions appear to have excused one defendant, entirely, and tempered the degree of potential liability for others.
Once again, we’re approaching the anniversary date of the most infamous MRI fatality and the corresponding MRI Safety Week. This year, through the in-kind support of my employer, Mednovus, I’m able to make available a MRI safety quiz (actually, it’s two quizzes, one for radiology / MR staff and one for the MRI layperson).
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.
Last year, the United States Supreme Court decided that medical device manufacturers that had gone through the trial-by-fire of a FDA pre-market review are immune from civil action in the state courts for product liability (Riegel v. Medtronic). Just a few weeks ago, the Court threw what many considered to be a major curve-ball when they decided that comparable protections do NOT apply to pharmaceutical manufacturers (Levine v. Wyeth). What does this suggest to MRI providers (Technologists, Radiologists and Administrators)?
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.
The single accident that really galvanized the very existence of the MRI safety movement was an accident that occurred in 2001 at Westchester Medical Center in New York State. In that tragedy, a steel oxygen cylinder was brought into the MRI room while Michael Colombini, a six-year old boy, was receiving a post-operative MRI to confirm they doctors had successfully removed his brain tumor. Click Here For The Rest Of This Story…