Medical Errors Abound In Utah Hospitals

Many of us have heard stories about botched surgeries during which medical instruments are left inside patients, but how many of us considered these stories to be urban legends? Sadly, such stories aren’t tall tales but often the truth. A recent story in the Salt Lake Tribune documented serious medical errors that took place in Utah hospitals in the twenty-first century. These “never events,” or sentinel events, as they are called, numbered some 219 from October 2001 to April 2007 and resulted in the deaths of nearly half. Among these errors were patients receiving the wrong blood type during transfusions, patients receiving the wrong type of medication, patients having the wrong type of surgery performed, and patients, specifically infants, being dropped.

Utah follows 32 types of serious medical errors with the intention of finding solutions to these errors and to prevent them from happening in the future. In 2007 alone Utah facilities reported 57 sentinel events. Of these 27 patients died, 28 were severely inured, 1 suffered from unwanted sexual contact, and 1 disappeared. A large percentage of the medical errors took place in operating rooms. Lack of communication is often blamed.

Have you or someone you know experienced a “never event”? While these stories are seriously alarming, it’s probably wise not to get too paranoid about hospital care. As with anything medical, it’s best to do your research, ask a lot of questions, and be your own advocate.