Consumer watchdogs are asking the Federal Trade Commission to step in and take action against a company that makes portable bed rails, indicating that that they are dangerous and falsely advertised.
According to a letter sent in September by Public Citizen and the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, bed rail products made by Bed Handles, Inc. are unreasonably dangerous, despite claims that they make beds safer.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) responded (PDF) with a letter in late September, indicating that it does not handle individual claims, but instead looked for patterns of violations.
The prominent consumer group Public Citizen maintains that Bedside Assistant bed handles have been factors in at least four deaths and made the request for the FTC to intervene following a May 2011 petition to the FDA to ban the marketing of the bed handles and to order a recall. The devices carry a risk of entrapment, strangulation or positional asphyxia that could result in death, the groups claim.
The deaths were reported through the FDA’s Manufacturer and User Facility Device Experience (MAUDE) database and have occurred between the 1999 and the present. Three of the deaths were caused by asphyxiation or strangulation.
“Given their design and installation, the bed handles can slip out of place, creating a gap between the edge of the mattress and the vertical bars. A person in the bed can then slip into this gap, becoming entrapped,” Public Citizen wrote in its letter. “Even a small gap, particularly resulting from use of these devices with soft or worn mattresses, can lead to entrapment.”
The devices are often used in nursing homes to aide with residents who have trouble getting into, and out of, bed. They are also frequently used in home care situations where an elderly or disabled person is being cared for at home.