New York to Lead Nation in Fighting Sepsis


Sepsis and pediatric care reforms, together called “Rory’s Regulations,” were announced Tuesday with the participation of Ciaran and Orlaith Staunton, whose 12-year old son Rory died of sepsis in April 2012. Sepsis is a medical condition that is the number-one killer in hospitals and the eleventh leading cause of death in the United States. The Stauntons have advocated tirelessly since then to increase awareness about sepsis and to improve the delivery of pediatric care in hospitals.

New York State will become the first state to require all hospitals to adopt best practices for the early identification and treatment of sepsis — measures which will, it is hoped, save an estimated 5,000 to 8,000 lives per year. Tuesday’s announcement was made by the office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

In addition, the Department of Health will propose regulations to respect the unique needs of pediatric patients by requiring that hospitals communicate critical test results in plain language to parents before a child is discharged.

Hospitals will post a “Parents’ Bill of Rights,” letting parents and patients know of the protections provided by these regulations.

Ciaran and Orlaith Staunton thanked the governor and State Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah, M.D., M.P.H, and others who work to combat sepsis. “Our son Rory was a battler for the underdog, who understood that helping those most in need was one of the most important lessons in life. We know his wish would be that no one suffer as he did and no family be left bereft when lives can be saved. We think these actions by the governor and the Health Commissioner are a huge step in the right direction,” said the Stauntons.

Said State Health Commissioner Shah, “Early detection of sepsis is a vital tool to treat this potentially life-threatening condition and save lives.”

Sepsis is a progressive shutdown of the body’s organs and systems caused by systemic inflammation following infection that enters the blood or soft tissue. More than 200,000 die from it each year. Those who don’t die often experience life-altering consequences like missing limbs or organ dysfunction. Sepsis accounts for an estimated $17 billion annually in national healthcare expenses.

Experts agree that the key to fighting sepsis is quick diagnosis and treatment within the “golden hour,” when it can be most effective. Pilot initiatives in some hospital systems have shown great strides in decreasing sepsis mortality through what is basically a “checklist”: a standardized protocol to facilitate diagnosis and fast and effective treatment as soon as any sign of sepsis arises. But no state has required these simple protocols be implemented at all hospitals.

The second set of regulations announced Monday will make key reforms to improve quality and oversight of care provided to pediatric patients, including provisions to strengthen the ability of parents to play a meaningful and informed role in a child’s healthcare decisions

In October 2012, Commissioner Shah convened a panel of experts to discuss strategies and initiatives to improve detection and treatment of sepsis, with a goal of improving survival rates in New York and across the nation.

Both sets of regulations will be submitted to the New York State Public Health and Health Planning Council for consideration on February 7, 2013, and will be published in the State Register for a 45-day public comment period. Following that review and approval by PHHPC, it is anticipated the regulations will take effect in May 2013.