A recently published study in the medical journal, The Lancet, has found that sepsis is the leading cause of death in the world.   In fact, it is more widespread than cancer or coronary disease. 

Sepsis is responsible for one in five deaths worldwide.  The study found that in 2017, an estimated 48.9 million incidents of sepsis were recorded worldwide and 11 million sepsis-related deaths were reported, representing 19.7% of all global deaths.

Study co-author Dr. Tex Kissoon, a professor at UBC Faculty of Medicine, stated:

Eleven million deaths worldwide is a tragedy, especially as most cases of sepsis are either preventable or treatable if caught in time. … We urgently need a coordinated global effort to tackle this crisis.  Raising awareness of sepsis among both patients and medical practitioners and ensuring everyone has access to public health measures to prevent and treat sepsis can greatly reduce the burden and ravages of this condition.


Sepsis is caused by the immune system going into over-drive in response to an infection.  Your immune system protects your body from illnesses and infections.  Sepsis develops when the chemicals the immune system releases into the bloodstream to fight an infection cause inflammation throughout the entire body instead.  The inflammation causes tiny blood clots to form, which blocks oxygen and nutrients from reaching vital organs.

There are three stages of sepsis:

  1. Sepsis occurs when the infection reaches the bloodstream and causes inflammation in the body.
  2. Severe sepsis occurs when the infection is so severe that it affects the function of the body’s organs (i.e. the heart, brain and kidneys).
  3. Septic shock occurs when the body experiences a significant drop in blood pressure, which can lead to respiratory or heart failure, stroke, the failure of other organs, and death.

Anyone can fall victim to sepsis or septic shock, although it most often occurs in older adults, pregnant women, children younger than one year old, individuals who have chronic conditions or those with weakened immune systems.

Any type of infection can lead to sepsis, however, the most common types of infection that seem to develop into sepsis are pneumonia, abdominal infection, kidney or urinary tract infection and bloodstream infection.

The early symptoms of sepsis should not be ignored and it is recommended that individuals visit their doctor or an emergency room if they develop the following symptoms:

  • Fever, typically higher than 38 degrees Celsius;
  • Low body temperature (below 36 degrees Celsius);
  • Fast heart rate (higher than 90 beats per minute);
  • Extreme pain or discomfort;
  • Confusion or disorientation;
  • Clammy or sweaty skin;
  • Rapid breathing (higher than 20 breaths per minute);
  • probable or confirmed infection.

A blood test is ordered if your health professional suspects that you are suffering from sepsis. Depending on the results of your blood test and your symptoms, other tests, such as a urine test, a wound secretion test and/or a mucus secretion test, may be ordered. If the source of the infection cannot be determined, your doctor may further order the following tests, x-rays, CT scans, ultrasounds or MRI scans.

The chances of developing sepsis can be greatly diminished by reducing the risk of infection through hand washing, staying up to date on vaccinations, getting the flu shot, pneumonia vaccines, getting immediate attention if you develop signs of infection and taking antibiotics as prescribed. 


There are a number of causes of sepsis.  Some of the most common causes of sepsis include:

  • Nursing homes or hospital patients who are not moved on a timely basis can develop bedsores which can lead to infections;
  • IV lines or other medical devices and equipment that are not properly sanitized can lead to infections;
  • Many surgery patients need antibiotics to heal properly.  If the medications are not properly prescribed, wounds can fail to heal which can lead to infections;
  • If a doctor fails to recognize that a patient has an infection, the patient can develop sepsis and related illnesses.


In some cases, a doctor may examine a patient and fail to diagnose sepsis or fail to treat sepsis properly.  There are also cases when an infection that causes sepsis was caused by unhygienic hospital conditions or negligent medical attention.  If these situations arise, a patient may have a medical malpractice claim.  That is not to say that every sepsis diagnosis or bad medical outcome is the result of malpractice.

Experienced medical malpractice lawyers, along with medical experts, can establish if preventable errors were made during the treatment of you or your loved one in a medical facility. 

If you or a loved one has developed sepsis while undergoing medical treatment, or suffered injuries as the result of an undiagnosed or mistreated sepsis diagnosis, you may be able to file a legal claim against the responsible party.

It is in your best interest to promptly hire a skilled and experienced law firm to guide you through the litigation process and answer any questions that you may have.  Cuming & Gillespie LLP can help evaluate your specific case to determine whether you have a valid medical malpractice claim.  Contact our office online or at 403-571-0555 for a free consultation today.  We look forward to helping you obtain the compensation that you deserve.