Elderly Woman's Life-Saving Necklace Kills Her

| by Sheena Vasani
Medical Alert DevicesMedical Alert Devices

An 86-year-old Pennsylvania woman's life-saving medical alert necklace strangled her to death.

Roseann DiFrancesco was using her walker to help her balance while walking when she fell, KTLA reports.

It was at that point the necklace -- which has a button to press during emergencies -- got caught on the walker’s handle.

Lacking a breakaway clasp, the woman was unable to unhook the medical alert necklace and was strangled to death.

A visiting nurse found her body at her home in New Cumberland on Feb. 15.

DiFrancesco’s death was ruled accidental, with a coroner calling it a “freak accident.”

This isn’t the first time a medical alert necklace has killed someone.

In 2013, Elizabeth Bell, 72, from Ponoka, Alberta, Canada, was also strangled to death after the cord got tangled on her walker, CBC reports.

"She didn't deserve to go this way," said Stacy Greenwood, Bell's daughter.

"The thing that was supposed to save her, killed her," Greenwood added.

Since then, the Greenwoods have been trying to raise awareness of the hazards associated with the necklaces.

"What my sister and I both wanted, [was to ] prevent it from happening for anyone else," Greenwood said.

Officials confirm the dangers posed by the life-saving devices.

In 2009, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning about medical alert accessories.

Between 1998 and 2009, the FDA received at least six reports of similar cords -- like the Philips Lifeline Personal Help Button -- causing injury or death in the U.S. and Canada.

The FDA's news release said:

“These widely used devices provide critical and immediate access to emergency care for those at risk of falls or who may be more likely to need outside assistance. While the number of adverse events reported is small compared to the number of people who use this device, the severity of these events is of concern. It remains important that users, along with their health care providers, assess the options provided by each style of button, and choose the option that best fits their condition.”

The FDA notes other options, such as medical alert bands worn on the wrist.

Sources: KTLA, CBC, FDA / Photo credit: Morris Hospital

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