Alarm Fatigue Allegedly Leads to Woman's Death: Lawsuit Filed

A lawsuit has been filed against Lehigh Valley Hospital-Pocono, blaming "alarm fatigue" for the death of a patient, Lina Dispensa. Nurses Headlines News


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Alarm Fatigue Allegedly Leads to Woman's Death: Lawsuit Filed

Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania - A lawsuit brought against Lehigh Valley Hospital - Pocono, alleges that the hospital failed to treat Dispensa's pneumonia adequately and that nurses did not respond to alarms when she went into cardiac arrest.

Dispensa was found unresponsive following a cardiac episode and remained in a coma until her family removed her from life support. The lawsuit seeks damages on behalf of Dispensa's widower, John Dispensa.

Timeline of Events

Lina Dispensa, a 71-year-old woman from Chestnuthill Township, Monroe County, was admitted to the hospital on November 28, 2022, due to shortness of breath. She received oxygen and inhalation therapy treatments as part of her care. However, the morning after her admission, on November 29, she was found unresponsive on the hospital floor following a cardiac episode.

Despite efforts to revive her, Dispensa remained in a coma. Her family made the heartbreaking decision to remove her from life support on December 3, leading to her death. Born in Italy, Dispensa leaves behind a grieving family, including her widower, John Dispensa, three children, and five grandchildren.

Lawsuit Filed

The lawsuit, filed on May 18 on behalf of Dispensa's family, points to a phenomenon known as "alarm fatigue" contributing to her death. The National Library of Medicine defines "alarm fatigue" as a situation where "clinicians experience high exposure to medical device alarms, causing alarm desensitization and leading to missed alarms or delayed response." The lawsuit alleges this condition led to the hospital staff's failure to respond promptly to Dispensa's critical condition.

The defendants in the lawsuit include the hospital, the health network, and an as-yet-unidentified nurse accused of failing to administer necessary care to Dispensa. The case was filed by Bethlehem Township attorneys Christopher Reid and Isaac Hof in Northampton County Court. The suit seeks damages on behalf of John Dispensa, Lina's widower.

Lehigh Valley Health Network spokesman Brian Downs stated that the network does not comment on pending litigation. The tragic case has brought attention to the issue of "alarm fatigue" in healthcare settings, a problem that can potentially lead to serious consequences for patients.

Importance of the Case

This case underscores the importance of effective alarm management and response in healthcare settings. It serves as a stark reminder of the potential risks associated with alarm desensitization and the critical role of healthcare professionals in monitoring and responding to patient alarms.

However, it's crucial to recognize the immense pressure and workload that nurses and other healthcare professionals face daily. They are often tasked with managing multiple patients, each with their own set of alarms and monitors. This constant exposure can lead to alarm fatigue, a systemic issue that needs to be addressed at an organizational level rather than placing the blame on individual healthcare workers.

The story of Lina Dispensa is a tragic one, and it highlights the need for constant vigilance in healthcare settings. However, it also underscores the importance of empathy and understanding for the challenges faced by our healthcare workers. As the lawsuit progresses, it is hoped that lessons will be learned to prevent such incidents in the future, and to support our nurses in their tireless efforts to provide the best possible care for their patients.

(Editorial Team / Admin)

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Jennifer Romans, BSN, RN

2 Articles; 16 Posts

Specializes in Health Writer, Registered Nurse.

Alarm fatigue is real and constant!  I can see how this can easily happen.  Nurses and hospital administration needs to collaborate to help this chronic problem that is a risk to patients.

Career Columnist / Author

Nurse Beth, MSN

157 Articles; 3,211 Posts

Specializes in Tele, ICU, Staff Development.

 While it  seems unlikely that an alarm would go unnoticed for 15 minutes, factors such as understaffing, multiple alarms going off at once, or frequent false and nuisance alarms could have contributed to the situation.

Specializes in Community health.

I see this even in outpatient!  We don't have audible alarms. What we have are "critical" pop-up screens. Often they are about drug-interactions that are vanishingly rare, or just not relevant to the patient. Also critical recommendations to do XYZ screening on patients. As a result, you just get in the habit of clicking "close" on a million critical warnings, after barely glancing at them. 

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