Medical professionals are expected to treat a patient with a standard of care that is accepted by the medical community. A medical professional’s act or omission that amounts to a deviation from that standard of care may be considered medical malpractice. Some acts or omissions from the standard of care are so egregious that they should not happen under any circumstances. These are referred to as “never events.”
Some examples of never events include:
- Operating on the wrong patient.
- Operating on the wrong body part.
- Leaving a foreign object inside a patient.
- Anesthesia complications that lead to the death of the patient.
- Blood transfusions using the wrong blood type.
- Giving a patient contaminated drugs.
- Re-using a syringe, leading to a patient contracting a serious, even fatal, infection or disease.
- Making a medication error that causes serious injury or death.
How Often Do Never Events Occur?
Given the nature of a never event, it would be easy to conclude that they virtually “never” occur. The truth is that never events happen far more frequently than you may imagine.
Patient safety researchers at Johns Hopkins University analyzed malpractice claims throughout the country to determine how often these events occur. They concluded that surgeons leave foreign objects in patients 39 times each week, operate on the wrong part of the body 20 times each week and perform the wrong surgical procedure another 20 times per week.
To put those numbers in perspective, more than 1,000 patients have the wrong part of the body operated on each year, while another 1,000 patients undergo the wrong procedure each year. Additionally, more than 2,000 patients wind up with a foreign object in their body after a surgical procedure each year.
The researchers used the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB), a federal repository of medical malpractice claims for their study. They found that of the 9,744 paid medical malpractice claims, 6.6 percent of them resulted in death to the victim, 32.9 percent suffered permanent injuries and another 59.3 percent suffered a temporary injury. The researchers further concluded that a staggering 4,044 never events occur each year in the United States. They believe that their estimate is low because many foreign objects left inside surgical patients are never discovered.
What Is Being Done to Prevent Never Events?
Hospitals and practitioners are under significant pressure to prevent never events from occurring. In 2007, the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services, which administers the Medicare program, announced that it would no longer reimburse hospitals for costs associated with many preventable errors, including the procedures listed as never events.
In 2009, the federal government joined the campaign to prevent never events by declaring that it will not reimburse hospitals or doctors for treatment of Medicare patients in the cases of performing surgery on the wrong body part, performing surgery on the wrong patient and performing the wrong type of surgery.
Researchers from the Johns Hopkins study point to procedures in place at many hospitals that can help prevent these tragedies such as:
- Mandatory “timeouts” in the operating room between surgeries to ensure that medical charts and surgical plans actually match the patient on the surgery table.
- Using indelible ink to mark the surgery site before the patient goes under anesthesia.
- Using electronic bar codes on instruments and materials to ensure a precise count.
The researchers also call for public dissemination of never event data. Although hospitals and practitioners voluntarily report never events, this does not always occur, and when it does occur, it is not always made public.
Get Help from a Syracuse Medical Malpractice Attorney Today
If you or a loved one has suffered a serious injury in a medical procedure in Syracuse or elsewhere New York, and you suspect medical malpractice was involved, our experienced attorneys will review your case free of charge and advise you of your legal options.
At Scott C. Gottlieb & Associates, LLP, our Syracuse medical malpractice lawyers have worked with many New Yorkers harmed by doctor malpractice, hospital negligence and other forms of medical malpractice. We will work hard to recover the maximum damages allowed by law while treating your case with the respect and attention you deserve. We see clients by appointment, and we are available to meet with you in your home or in the hospital if you are unable to travel.
If you have been the victim of a never event, act now to learn about your legal options. Call Scott C. Gottlieb & Associates, LLP, at (315) 314-5390 or contact us via our online contact form for a FREE case review.
- Johns Hopkins – Johns Hopkins Malpractice Study: Surgical ‘Never Events’ Occur At Least 4,000 Times per Year