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Current National Zinc Drug Shortage May Endanger Babies & Others

There is a national shortage of injectable zinc in hospitals, this current crisis lends to an environment where potentially negligent care is delivered to children as a result of a lack of access to this necessity. An article on NBCNews.com this week stated that the scarcity of zinc in hospitals resulted in seven documented instances where, already vulnerable, premature babies succumbed to atrocious skin lesions and suffered other, adverse, potentially, life-threatening reactions. Hospitals nationwide use the zinc as a key ingredient to nourish premature babies in neonatal intensive care units (NICU). During the final weeks of a full-term pregnancy an unborn child receives the necessary zinc in the womb. However, babies born prematurely require major doses of zinc to promote proper cell metabolism and growth. The zinc supplement for preemies is typically delivered via total parenteral nutrition (TPN) – which is basically food administered intravenously. The dangers of not receiving the zinc can vary from acute skin lesions to permanent cognitive impairment to death.

An estimated 120,000 babies may be in danger due to the zinc shortage. Reliance on TPN for nourishment is not exclusive to premature babies. Approximately 400,000 adults are prescribed TPN in hospitals, nursing homes and in-home care situations. Thus, these individuals are also at risk of suffering potentially deadly zinc deficiency related reactions because of the shortage.

According to a report published last month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the two U.S. manufacturers of injectable zinc, Illinois-based, Hospira and New York-based, American Regent, have no inventory of the drug available. American Regent stopped production due to contamination and Hospira could not keep up with demand, however is scheduled to resume production this month.

Does legal recourse exist in personal injury law for those affected by drug shortages?
Personal injury law is a large umbrella that covers many various types of civil matters. Under this umbrella, our Chicago personal injury attorneys are experienced professionals working on issues like medical malpractice, injuries to children, nursing home abuse and neglect and wrongful death.

In a personal injury matter the injured party, also known as the plaintiff, seeks compensation for their injuries – which can be physical or psychological. The injuries sustained are due to the negligent behavior of the other party (the defendant). In order for the plaintiff to establish the defendant’s negligence our attorneys must establish four key elements:

1. the existence of a duty on the part of the defendant that protects the plaintiff from unreasonable injury,
2. a breach of that duty,
3. the breach caused the injury and 4. the plaintiff incurred damages.

Itemizing the issue to a four-element list promotes the appearance that it is easy or formulaic to determine whether or not negligence occurred. However, in most instances, it is far from simple. Each negligence matter comes with its own layers of complexity that must be closely examined on a case-by-case basis. The zinc deficiency story is a sound example of the latent complications surrounding a personal injury lawsuit wherein potentially multiple defendants exist that owe different duties of care to the plaintiff or plaintiffs involved.

Other factors that weigh in on personal injury matters include the statute of limitations – which are time limits within which legal proceedings may be brought – and also jurisdictional issues – that establish legal authority, from a geographical standpoint, over a matter.

The hospitals involved in the report involving the seven premature babies eventually received emergency batches of the zinc necessary to allow the already delicate babies a slow recovery. When a child is welcomed into the world, the baby’s parents want nothing more than to bring home from the hospital their healthy new family member without a hitch. Regrettably, that is not always the case and unfortunately, injuries may arise from impending complications and negligence.

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