Death from Pump Malfunction

I just saw this on my Facebook feed and I thought it should be shared here. For those who do not want to read bad news about diabetes, please stop reading here.

KOMO-4 News in Seattle, Washington is reporting that their new weekend anchor, Joel Connable, a diabetic, died on Tuesday from a pump malfunction. He had called off on Monday and when he didn't return phone calls on Tuesday, his employer asked the police to check on him. They found him dead on his apartment floor.

The New York Daily News speculates that Connable may not have known his pump was malfunctioning and this malfunction continued until he began to experience seizures.

During this national Diabetes Month and leading up to World Diabetes Day, I hope this is a reminder that though insulin is a miracle, our lives are still held in a precarious balance every day. Over the 19 years, 8 months that have passed since my diagnosis, I have known many people with diabetes and many of those I knew in the early days have now died. As grateful I am for insulin, I would much prefer a cure!


That is just horrible. But at the same time one has to wonder. Didn't this person check his blood sugar ? I mean if I were a pumper, and I am not, I would be checking my blood sugars regularly. And I agree after 37 years, 6 months since my diagnosis, I would certainly prefer a cure, but as grateful as I am for insulin, I do realize that it can also be a deadly drug.

I'm sure we all would prefer a cure. I knew from the beginning that Diabetes can be a killer and also the same for insulin. At 16 I went into DKA and when I came to I realized what I had could kill me and as the years (53) have progressed I knew that insulin's side effect could also be death but since I'm dependent on it to live I continue to live. In my later years I learned to use the pump and have loved every moment of pumping. I know that what ever happens that Diabetes might be the source of my death but I still continue to live.

It would be a rare thing if this happened the way it was presented. Usually pump malfunctions cause the pump to stop instead of delivering more than wanted.
I have had an Amnimas pump and a minimed. Ive seen both fail a few times but generally just lock up and stop delivering. i heard one story where it was reported a pump spontaneously delivered the entire cartridge into the patient, but that story was found to be untrue. That person kept bolusing over and over thinking his pump was not delivering, but it was. So he killed himself really.

I am always wary of stories about diabetics in the news because it happens so often to be totally wrong. Like someone died from too much sugar instead of too much insulin. Somehow reporters get this backwards a lot.

I googled this story and did not find other than the story posted. I am very curious to learn what actually happened, as I am a pumper, I have never worried about this possibility before.I wish they would go into more detail about the malfunction.

Which brand of pump was it would be the $64 question!

Has anyone seen the commercial where they say, "If it's on the internet, it must be true"? Don't believe it. I do think urban legends have gotten more interesting in the age of technology.

'lead line'. Sorry, but my inference from that is that someone's got something wrong. If 'lead line' means tubing, he would have gotten NO insulin if it were disconnected from either end. They don't say if he went hypo or hyper. I can't imagine someone with D as long as he had it going THAT high without knowing something was wrong, and checking...?

Of course there's a risk with anything mechanical delivering something that can be deadly. It's something I'm aware of with my pump, but honestly not concerned about. I've also heard of people forgetting they've taken their insulin and double dosing.

Waiting for the whole story :) TG for insulin. Whatever the cause, it's very sad ;(

Apparently, he went DKA fairly quickly, if the reporting at is to be believed. I don't doubt it, as I've seen it happen, though I do know it is unusual.

Don't get me wrong, I am quite grateful for insulin. But when I read someone getting excited over the latest bg meter or dm management ap for their iPhone, I'm reminded of the fact that all these "things" are just pretty trappings to make what really is an ugly disease more palatable. :~

Wonderful attitude, Betty. :) Better to light a candle than curse the darkness, eh?

While the details might be off (here's another source for the death announcement:, there is one thing that is certain: He did die.

That was my first thought, too AR. Given that a line was pulled out, I'd be willing to bet that the pump wasn't an Omnipod!

The sources I found, especially the NY Daily News,are fairly credible sources. Now, a blog post in which the writer claims to have seen BOTH Romney and Obama dancing around a fire pit, nude...well, that's another story! ;)

!8 months ago I had two QuickSets that would just disconnect on their own if they where just bumped into lightly. The first one disconnected sometime between lunch and dinner and I went to bead without checking my BG and my CGM was in the middle of a restart. I was just not being proactive and had let my guard down. The next morning I woke up to extremely high BG, high ketones, and vomiting (my infusion set was disconnected). I changed my infusion set and found that it would also disconnect with a light tug on the tubing. Medtronic asked me to ship the box of infusion sets back to them. I started checking each of my infusion sets to make sure the connection is sound... If I had been fighting some kind of virus or illness during what I consider a failure on Medtronic part it could have be even worse. I do understand that I'm the person with final responsibility in checking my infusion sites and pump...but after many years it's easy to drop your guard, sometimes the gloves just get too heavy to hold up.

Life is fragile and it's easy to get caught off guard, I may survive a Lion attack one day and die from a bee sting the next...I'm not going to stop using my pump.....;-)

Thanks for that second article, but it only highlights my point.
The pump did not malfunction at all. His set came out. That is a big difference in my book.
I meant Its a shame really but I am surprised he did not notice.
How he had a seizure from DKA makes no sense to me and sounds like one of those "reporting the opposite" stories again,

I am surprised they didn't report that he had "sugar shock" from "sugar diabetes"

If anyone here is old enough to remember those terms...

There is clearly risk to our health and mortality from our diabetes and when we delegate some of our treatment to medical devices, we can become dependent on those devices for our very lives. And although the FDA has very stringent standards, stuff still goes wrong. Some of you may remember Steve Krueger, he died when his pump emptied the whole cartridge overnight. And there are many other reports of malfunctions and harm and even death. An article a few years ago in the WSJ the said that the FDA was reporting an increase in pump problems, with 12,000 reports of injury and 316 deaths from 10/06-9/09.

I suspect that some of these are actually defects or failures of the pump. Some of them may have been "operator error." But in the end, like driving a car, we absolutely must operate the pump defensively. The really sad thing is that there are probably things that pump users could have done to protect themselves against being harmed by these failures.

I'd like to hear from pump users what they do to protect themselves.

I think this needs much further investigation before any conclusions can be drawn: was his death officially caused by seizure or DKA? What type of pump or set malfunction might have attributed to his death? Can the confiscated pump be examined by independent specialists?

I'd agree with Angela that it's a useful reminder that insulin is a hard drug that can kill you. It bothers me that the explanation is rather vague.

If my pump doesn't work because the line was out, I'd know about it. I check that if I ever have an elevated BG. I've pumped since 2008 and, if I get a pump "spot" that doesn't seem to be working, producing elevated, unresponsive BG etc., I'll turn up my basal to 200% and, if that doesn't get 'er down in an hour or two, I'd move the site from my abdomen, which I use most of the time, to my love handles, which I hardly ever use to give the abdomen area some "recovery". It works. I did that on my own though, no medical input. I have a doctor's appointment Tuesday so I'll see if that works? I'd think the disconnection would have to go on for a while before it would kill you. I think of "seizure" as a low rather than a high.

Could it be possible that he pulled out the tubing as he was going low or during the seisure?

I thought the same.
They found him on the floor, perhaps I understood he was low a little late and managed only to disconnect his pump.