Anything can kill a person, even things intended to be life-saving. An elderly Pennsylvania woman found out the downside of hanging a medical alert gadget around your neck — the hard way.
Roseann J. DiFrancesco was found dead in her bathroom on Feb. 15, according to the report from the Cumberland County Coroner’s Office. Relatives had last spoken to her on Feb. 12.
She was found after a visiting nurse, unable to summon DiFranceso by knocking on the door, entered her home and found her. It was unclear how long she had been dead.
Cumberland County Coroner Charles Hall said the lanyard of the medical device, having caught on the walker, caused DiFrancesco’s upper torso to be suspended above the floor level, and the resulting pressure on her neck cut off air and blood flow.
Hall said the lanyard used by DiFrancesco apparently lacked a breakaway feature. But he didn’t know whether it was the lanyard that came with the device or a replacement.
Hall called the death a “freak accident.”
“Freak accident,” though, is not the same as “one-off.”
However, there have been injuries and a few deaths associated with such personal alert systems over the years. In 2009, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning, saying it was aware of at least six serious injuries or deaths related to one of the popular brands of the device between 1998 and 2009.
Available from numerous makers, they often involve a pendant with a button the wearer can push to summon medical help in the event of a fall or medical emergency.
Some have break-away lanyards to prevent choking or injury if the lanyard catches on something or is otherwise pulled.
However, there has been disagreement over the benefits of breakaway lanyards, with some device makers saying the greater danger is that a lanyard will break and the alert device will be out of reach when needed.