02/17/2015 03:55 EST | Updated 04/19/2015 05:59 EDT

Elizabeth Bell inquiry urges older Lifeline pendants be replaced

The accidental strangulation of a 73-year-old woman has led an Alberta judge to recommend that health authorities take immediate steps to replace older-model Lifeline emergency pendants with a newer, breakaway model.

The recommendation was made as part of an inquiry into the death of Elizabeth Bell, whose body was found in her Ponoka, Alta.​, home by a neighbour in February 2013.

An investigation by the medical examiner found she asphyxiated when her Lifeline pendant, worn around her neck, got caught on her walker and strangled her.

The lanyards, which can be worn around the wrist or neck, are designed to notify emergency authorities when the Lifeline button is pushed.

Bell, who suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, had first been fitted with a wrist lanyard in 2008.

Manufacturer warned of risk

That same year, the manufacturer Philips began making Lifeline pendants with a "breakaway cord" designed to split open when pressure was exerted on it.

In 2009, the company released a warning stating that the non-breakaway model of the pendant model could pose a choking risk, noting that risk was higher among wearers who used walkers, as Bell did.

However, when Bell switched to a pendant in 2013, she was given an older model with a non-breakaway cord. 

Although Philips stopped manufacturing the non-breakaway cords in 2011, the company did not recall those already in distribution.

Following Bell’s death, Family & Community Support Services, which distributes Lifeline devices in the Ponoka area, ordered breakaway cords for all patients who were still using the older model.

In his report into Bell's death, Judge B.D. Rosborough commended the support services for taking steps to replace the older pendants with the safer breakaway pendants and recommended Alberta Health Services and Health Canada work with Philips to take similar steps.

Read the full report: