Rory Staunton was only 12 years old when he died from sepsis in New York City

‘Rory’s Regulations,’ sepsis care mandates introduced in New York in the wake of 12-year-old Rory Staunton’s death, are already having a positive impact in the state according to a recent four-year study.

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Research conducted between 2011 and 2015 by the University of Pittsburgh found that Rory’s Regulations, which was signed into law in New York State in 2013, may have played a role in the marked decrease of sepsis-related deaths. 

The study found that over the time period, the rate of sepsis-related deaths fell by 4.3 percent in New York State. The other "unregulated" states that were analyzed - New Jersey, Florida, Maryland, and Massachusetts - saw the rate drop by only 2.9 percent.

Lead author of the study Jeremy Kahn said: "This provides a really strong rational for other states adopting regulations similar to those in New York State.”

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Rory Staunton's story

In 2012, Rory Staunton came home from school with a cut on his arm that had not been properly cleaned. The wound, unbeknownst to Rory or his parents at the time, had become infected.

Speaking with NPR this week, Rory's mother Orlaith Staunton said: "During the night I heard him throwing up and I went out and he said, 'It's my leg, Mom, it's my leg.'"

The following day, when Rory’s temperature spiked and he continued to get sick, Orlaith took him to their pediatrician who diagnosed Rory with a case of the flu and sent him to the hospital to get fluids.

At the hospital, the emergency room doctors said that Rory only had a stomach bug - they drew blood, gave him three bags of fluids, and prescribed him an anti-nausea medication before sending him home.

The following evening, Rory still felt sick so they returned to the hospital. This time, he was admitted into the Intensive Care Unit.

"We brought him back into hospital — that was on Friday night — and he died on Sunday evening," Staunton says. 

"He went straight into intensive care when we brought him back in. And it was after he died that we were told that he had died from sepsis."

Ciaran and Orlaith Staunton with their children, Rory and Kathleen

Ciaran and Orlaith Staunton with their children, Rory and Kathleen

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The Rory Staunton Foundation

Staunton says she had never heard of sepsis before it claimed her child’s life, but after learning about it, she believes that had her son been properly diagnosed, he would still be alive.

In the wake of Rory's death, Orlaith and her husband Ciaran Staunton launched The Rory Staunton Foundation for Sepsis Prevention in memory of their son. The Foundation says its "overriding goal is to ensure that no other child or young adult dies of sepsis resulting from the lack of a speedy diagnosis and immediate medical treatment."

Orlaith said she and Ciaran "were angry and we wanted to do something that would bring about some change in how sepsis was being diagnosed and how people would know what sepsis was.”

Rory's Regulations

On January 29, 2013, after a campaign from The Rory Staunton Foundation, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York announced that all hospitals in New York State would be required to adopt evidence-based protocols for the early diagnosis and treatment of sepsis. 

Known as Rory’s Regulations, New York was the first state in the nation to implement such measures. Hospitals are required to adopt protocols that provide for:

  • The screening and early recognition of patients with sepsis, severe sepsis, and septic shock;
  • A process to identify and document individuals appropriate for treatment through severe sepsis protocols; and
  • Guidelines for treatment including for early delivery of antibiotics.

Of Rory's Regulations, Orlaith said to NPR: "It's not enough to say, 'Leave it to me and I'll recognize it when I see it. Because clearly it has not been recognized. I think good doctors will agree that this is something that needs to be regulated."