When Diabetes Devices Fail

Consumer Reports – December 8, 2020 – By Rachel Rabkin Peachman

Malfunctions or design flaws with continuous blood glucose monitors, insulin pumps, and other equipment can be devastating

Pamela, a 64-year-old from Arkansas, began using an insulin pump to manage her type 2 diabetes in 2013. She and her husband, Gary, were trained to use the pump, made by Medtronic, and according to a lawsuit later filed against the company, Gary often helped set up his wife’s device. (CR isn’t using their last name to protect their privacy.)

So it wasn’t unusual when one night in January 2016, Gary filled the pump’s reservoir with insulin and changed its infusion set, which connects the reservoir to the body via a thin plastic tube.

But Pamela and Gary didn’t know that the infusion set had a flaw that could cause the pump to deliver too much insulin—something that the lawsuit alleged happened to Pamela that night. While Gary was sleeping, Pamela’s blood sugar levels plummeted, and the next day he found her in a coma. Attempts to revive her failed; she died in a hospital a week later.

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