“Rory’s Regulations” Will Fight Sepsis in New York Hospitals

Orlaith, Rory, Kathleen and Ciaran Staunton. Photo: Sean McPhail

By Kelly Fincham, Contributor
August / September 2013

New York has become the first state in the U.S. to mandate a series of protocols to diagnose and treat sepsis before it turns fatal.

The protocols have been named “Rory’s Regulations” for 12-year-old Irish American Rory Staunton who died from an undiagnosed case of sepsis on April 1, 2012. Doctors failed to recognize that Rory was suffering from sepsis until it was too late.

Sepsis is a common but almost unknown killer. It is the single leading cause of death in intensive care units in the U.S. and kills over 200,000 Americans each year; more than lung cancer, stroke and breast cancer combined. However, public awareness of the dangers of sepsis is so low that a 2010 report found 70 percent of Americans did not even know it existed.

Sepsis is a dangerous condition caused by the body’s own immune response to infection. The body produces chemicals to fight the infection, but those same chemicals cause widespread inflammation, which can shut down the body’s organs.

“Rory’s Regulations” will require all New York hospitals to be proactive about sepsis and aim for early identification and treatment of the infection. The Regulations also call for increased patient communication and a “more meaningful” role for parents when their children are in the hospital.

Rory’s parents Orlaith and Ciaran and his sister Kathleen have worked tirelessly since Rory’s death to try and prevent more families from suffering from their devastating loss.

Their advocacy is a poignant tribute to Rory, who was a keen student of politics and social justice despite his young age.

The family has also launched the Rory Staunton Foundation (www.rorystaunton. com) which joined forces with the Global Sepsis Alliance in April in an initiative which aims to reduce sepsis deaths by 20 percent by 2020.

And they have had several meetings with the Senate Health Committee staff of Senator Tom Harkin with a view to holding the first ever national hearings on sepsis, which is now killing more Americans than AIDS.

Rory’s father Ciaran says the family will keep working to prevent any more deaths from sepsis. “If this had happened to Kathleen, Orlaith or me, Rory would be doing the same thing,” Ciaran says. “He was a true champion of the underdog and he never took no for an answer.”

Ciaran will deliver the keynote lecture about Rory’s Regulations at the first Sepsis Summit Berlin, which will take place in the German city on Monday, Sept. 9. The conference has been organized by the World Sepsis Alliance in advance of World Sepsis Day on Sept. 13.

Kelly Fincham teaches journalism at Hofstra University on Long Island where she specializes in social and digital media.

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