Landmark federal legislation and several other social and clinical forces have induced nursing homes to reduce their use of physical or mechanical restraints on their residents during the past decade. Attention is being paid to the overuse of restraining devices and methods in acute care hospitals. Including critical care units, and the need to develop strategies for their reduction or elimination. One of the most serious barriers to accomplishing this objective is anxiety on the part of health professionals and administrators about potential legal liability for patient injury. This, article discusses the potential legal implications of physical restraint reduction in hospitals, with special emphasis on the critical care context. It places risks in realistic perspective, ultimately arguing that developing suitable alternatives to restraint use in most cases best serves the legal—as well as the clinical, ethical, and financial—interests of all concerned parties.

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