Report: Pa. hospital used stun guns on patients

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - December 10, 2010

A state Department of Health report completed in October said the use of stun guns violated regulations and threatened the health and rights of patients at Lehigh Valley Hospital, The Morning Call of Allentown reported Friday.

"The use of Taser, stun gun or like weapons against patients is not permitted," the Health Department report said.

Each of the four incidents involved violent or unruly patients. Two patients were stunned while fighting with guards. A third was stunned for using an intravenous pole as a weapon. Another patient who had received medication to control anxiety and psychosis became agitated, refused to stay in a room and was stunned while approaching a guard.

As of Oct. 15, LVH security guards were no longer armed with stun guns. But the hospital said in a statement to the newspaper that it hopes to resume the use of the nonlethal weapons at some point.

The hospital said the incidents were "law enforcement" matters and in no way "related to patient restraint in the normal course of care."

The state report said the hospital failed to provide a safe health care setting, failed to properly handle unruly patients, and broke state law by failing to report the incidents to the Health Department. The department has ordered Lehigh Valley Health Network to retrain staffers how to respond to unruly behavior.

The federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, meanwhile, has put the hospital on a track that could result in its removal from the Medicare and Medicaid programs, though that is unlikely to happen, according to CMS spokeswoman Lorraine Ryan.

The federal agency doesn't specifically prohibit the use of stun guns on patients, but requires hospitals to protect patients' welfare and rights.

"By using a Taser, a weapon, you are basically denying a patient's safety and their rights," Ryan said.


Information from: The Morning Cal,

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