86-Year-Old Killed by Device Intended to Save Her

She was strangled by her medical alert necklace
By Luke Roney,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 3, 2016 2:33 AM CST
86-Year-Old Woman Killed in 'Freak Accident'
A Medicalert bracelet is shown in this file photo.   (AP Photo/Young Kwak)

In what the Cumberland County, Penn., coroner is calling a "freak accident," an 86-year-old woman was strangled to death by a device that was intended to save her life. Roseann J. DiFrancesco apparently tripped and fell, causing her medical alert necklace to become caught on her walker, the Patriot-News reports. The result, says Coroner Charles Hall, was that her upper torso was suspended above the floor, creating pressure on her neck that cut off air and blood flow. Relatives had last spoken to DiFrancesco on Feb. 12. A visiting nurse found the woman dead in her bathroom Feb. 15, when the nurse entered DiFrancesco's home after unsuccessful attempts to summon her by knocking on the door. It is unclear when DiFrancesco died. Her death was ruled an accident, Fox 43 reports.

The device (similar to the ones popularized by "I've fallen and I can't get up" commercials) did not have a breakaway lanyard, as some do, per the Patriot-News. The FDA has warned of potential choking with such devices, which typically include a pendant with a button to call for help, saying the agency is aware of at least six serious injuries or deaths related to their use between 1998 and 2009. "Risks are greater for those with mobility limitations or for those who use wheelchairs, walkers, beds with guard rails, or other objects that could entangle with a neck cord," the FDA says in a press release. DiFrancesco, who was retired, had worked for 25 years for the federal government and 18 years for the state, according to an obituary. (A freak accident claimed the life of a pregnant woman in Oregon this week.)

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