Hospital patient arrested for switching off neighbor’s “noisy” oxygen machine

Photo credit: Daan Stevens

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

CNN has reported that German authorities in Mannheim arrested a woman after she allegedly switched off another hospital patient’s oxygen machine because it was too noisy. That patient had to be resuscitated and now is in intensive care.

Hospitals are noisy, and that’s a problem reported in scientific journals  and general interest magazines, among many other media outlets.

I’m a little puzzled because in American hospitals oxygen comes from a wall outlet and usually is bubbled through a humidifier before being delivered to the patient via nasal cannula or a mask. There’s a little bit of noise, but it’s not bad, although I could see how it might bother someone sensitive to noise who wants quiet. I’m not sure what kind of machine was being used in the hospital in Mannheim.

There are architectural standards for hospital noise, governing such metrics as sound transmission from one room to the adjacent one, but no standards governing the major sources of hospital noise: voices, doors closing, carts in the corridors, and, most importantly, equipment and alarms in patient rooms.

Maybe this unfortunate incident will encourage the various advisory and regulatory organizations and agencies regulating hospitals to deal more effectively with the very real problem of noise in hospitals, for patients, visitors, and staff.


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