Bed handles can be deadly, FDA should recall and ban

You probably never thought that those innocuous-looking bed handles you can install on beds at home — the ones designed to help the elderly and ill get in and out of bed — can be deadly.

But they have, in fact, strangled people who unwittingly roll over in their sleep and become caught in the gap between the bed and the handles.

A little while ago, Public Citizen received a call from a woman whose mother was killed this way. We began to investigate and found that others had died in a similar manner.

So today, we sent a petition to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), urging the agency to recall all Bedside Assistant bed handles, ban the marketing of these devices and investigate the link between similar bed handles (also known as bed rail devices) made by other companies and the risk of life-threatening injury or death due to entrapment and subsequent strangulation or suffocation.

Bed handles — which are considered medical devices and are therefore regulated by the FDA — are used in patients’ homes and in nursing homes; they are rarely used in hospital settings. Said Dr. Michael Carome, deputy director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group:

Contrary to the manufacturer’s claim that the Bedside Assistant  bed handles make any bed a safer bed, data previously provided to the FDA demonstrate that these devices can turn a bed into a death trap for patients who are physically weak or have physical or mental impairments.

It’s an important consumer story. We’ll keep you posted on what we hear from the FDA.