The 2018 death of a 75-year-old woman at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center in Houston, Texas was caused by a labelling mistake that was emblematic of systemic issues at the hospital, the Houston Chronicle reported recently. The death, and the circumstances that led up to it, illustrate how patients can be gravely affected by seemingly minor medical errors. For medical malpractice lawyers in Canada, it was a reminder that fatal mistakes can be made at even the most reputable medical institutions.

The error in question involved the victim receiving a transfusion of blood intended for the patient that had preceded her in the ER room. She died after several cardiac arrests.

Just four days earlier, the Chronicle reports, a 73-year-old woman nearly suffered a similar fate. Doctors ordered a blood transfusion to address fluid retention following a dialysis treatment, but staff submitted an order meant for another patient with a different blood type. The lab noticed the error and a potentially catastrophic mistake was avoided.

Both incidents are indicative of what the Chronicle calls “a pattern of blood labelling errors at St. Luke’s.” Last year, the newspaper published the results of a year-long investigation that “documented numerous lapses in patient care at a hospital once regarded as among the nation’s best for cardiac care.” The investigation, conducted in partnership with ProPublica, inspired a government inspection that produced a “scathing report.” In the four-month period between September 2017 and October 2018, regulators identified more than 120 blood labelling mistakes of varying severities.

“These are really basic errors that I didn’t really think happened that often anymore,” Dr. Ashish Jha, an expert in hospital quality who directs Harvard’s Global Health Institute, told the Chronicle.

The hospital’s CEO Doug Lawson said the results of the government inspection were “deeply disappointing.”

“It is our responsibility to learn from these mistakes, and we take this responsibility very seriously,” he wrote in a public letter. “An incident like this should never happen.”

Medical malpractice lawyers with experience representing seriously injured clients understand that something as mundane as a labelling error can have life-or-death consequences. The errors committed by St. Luke’s hospital staff could occur in any medical facility in North America.

If you or a member of your family has been injured as a result of the error or negligence of a medical professional, contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers today to learn how our experienced team of medical malpractice lawyers can help.


Image credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Teresa J. Cleveland

Greg Neinstein