“Never Events” Happen an Average of 80 Times a Week

by | Nov 29, 2013 | Firm News, Medical Malpractice, Surgical Errors |

Some medical mistakes are called “never events” because they
cause so much unnecessary harm to patients and they are so preventable
that they should never happen. Yet these dangerous medical errors continue
to occur disturbingly often – even after protocols were implemented
to check against them. Patients who have been harmed by medical malpractice
such as a
surgical error should contact a lawyer to discuss how they may seek compensation to help
them pay for medical bills and other expenses resulting from the error.

Surgical Never Events

Surgical never events are serious and avoidable medical mistakes that include
wrong-patient, wrong-site and wrong-procedure surgeries. In addition to
instances where a doctor operates on the wrong leg, for example, never
events also include cases where surgical equipment is mistakenly left
in a patient and not discovered until after the surgery is complete.

A study recently published in the journal Surgery examined a federal record
of medical liability settlements and judgments for surgical errors and
found surprising results. Between 1990 and 2010, nearly 10,000 claims
were made for surgical errors, which is an average of about 4,000 surgical
errors per year or approximately 80 never events each week.

The study said that, in most cases, the harm caused to the patient was
temporary, although a third of the cases involved permanent injuries.
In addition, about half of the surgical errors involved surgery on the
wrong patient altogether, in the wrong location on the patient or with
the wrong surgical procedure. The other half were claims for never events
where surgical equipment was left behind in a patient, such as sponges
that are used to soak up blood and other fluids during surgery but that
are difficult to see in X-rays taken before the wounds are closed.

Further, the study found that these errors were not more likely to occur
with new doctors emerging from residency or among older doctors nearing
retirement. Instead, most of the mistakes – 36 percent – were
committed by doctors age 40 to 49 years old. Thirty percent occurred among
doctors between age 50 and 59, and less than 15 percent were committed
by doctors age 60 and older.

Mistakes in the Operating Room

In 2004, the Universal Protocol was developed to build in mandatory safety
checks against never events like wrong-site surgery and was implemented
among members of a large medical accreditation organization called the
Joint Commission. The Universal Protocol still does not prevent all surgical
errors, though, with so many opportunities for mistake in the operating
room and so many never events still happening. If you or a loved one has
suffered harm from a surgical error,
contact a medical malpractice attorney to learn about your legal options.


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