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SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah woman died after she was mistakenly given a medication commonly used for chemotherapy while living at an assisted living facility in Orem, a lawsuit filed by the woman's family alleges.
Gloria Dunn lived at Bel Aire Assisted Living Facility, which was responsible for "obtaining and administering all her medications," an emailed news release from the family's attorney states.
Dunn was prescribed metolazone, a diuretic medication "that helps the body rid itself of excess fluid," according to the lawsuit filed on Wednesday. The facility sent the prescription to Select Pharmacy in Midvale, but the pharmacy mistakenly sent back methotrexate, a chemotherapy drug used to treat cancer.
Employees at Bel Aire then administered the wrong drug to Dunn "over and over again," court documents read. The drug allegedly "caused severe and painful damage to Gloria for several weeks."
At one point during those weeks, Dunn met with two doctors, a registered nurse and Brighton Home Health. Yet, despite the doctors' responsibility to "verify her medication, they did not realize that Bel Aire Assisted Living was not supposed to be administering methotrexate to Gloria,” court documents state.
"How are there so many people who had the responsibility to care for and protect this woman who failed to notice this deadly mistake?" family attorney Ricky Shelton asked.
Dunn died at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center on Aug. 27, 2018, just a month after the drug mixup. She was 75.
According to a statement from representatives of the family, Dunn was “a beloved mother and grandmother” and “a dedicated educator,” who owned the Little Scholar Preschool and worked at the Dan Peterson School in American Fork. Dunn leaves behind six children, 13 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Diana and Maria Dunn, personal representatives of Dunn’s heirs and estate, filed a lawsuit in 3rd District Court against Select Pharmacy, LLC in Murray, as well as Bel Aire Assisted Living in Orem, Brighton Home Health, LLC in Salt Lake County, the University of Utah College of Pharmacy, Revere Health in Provo and six individuals.
"Preventing this type of tragedy from happening to anyone else is what’s most important to the Dunn family in filing this case," the news release reads. "There have been more than 100 published incidents, including 25 deaths, where methotrexate was mistakenly administered to patients relying on the supposed care and supervision of healthcare professionals."
These mistakes have continued to happen, despite the fact that the Institute for Safe Medication Practices has designated methotrexate as a "high alert medication," the news release states.
"That's the kind of medication we're dealing with here: chemotherapy. When nothing else is available," Shelton said. "(Dunn) was put through chemotherapy. ... This poor woman went through that, not having cancer."
The lawsuit accuses the defendants of wrongful death and negligence for several reasons, including “giving Gloria the wrong medication, not verifying Gloria’s medication, and not realizing Gloria’s deteriorating health was due to the fact she was being wrongfully administered methotrexate."
The documents also allege that the defendants failed to refer Dunn to the right healthcare providers as well as communicate Dunn's condition and use of methotrexate to those providers. The defendants also failed to properly supervise and train employees, court documents read.
"The Dunn family prays for judgment against defendants for all damages the law affords and all damages the jury determines is fair and just for the wrongful death of their beloved mother," according to court documents.
Contributing: Paul Nelson, KSL Newsradio