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Surgery

What Is a Medical Never Event?

When caring for a patient, medical professionals are required to meet the “standard of care” that another reasonable physician or healthcare provider would offer in that same situation. If you sustain injuries because a medical professional violated the standard of care, you may be able to hold them accountable for your medical expenses and other needs, on the basis that they committed medical negligence.

While there are many different forms and degrees of medical negligence, there is one category that stands above the rest in terms of seriousness. Known as “never events”, these medical errors are considered to be preventable by definition – and in many cases, they can cause life-altering injuries and death for the patient.

What Counts as a Never Event?

Whether it’s a surgery performed on the wrong patient or a hospital-acquired bedsore, never events are generally defined as preventable, self-evident mistakes that have lasting health consequences for patients. Because of inconsistent reporting methods, however, it has historically been unclear how often doctors commit this kind of negligence.

The term “never event” wasn’t even coined until 2001, when the former CEO of the National Quality Forum (NQF) first used it to define particularly egregious and shocking medical mistakes. Almost 20 years later, the NQF now actively maintains a list of the top 29 never events, which are also known as “serious reportable events.”

Here are the 7 main categories of never events:

  • Surgical and invasive procedure events: Preventable surgical errors, such as leaving a foreign object behind during surgery or performing an invasive procedure on the wrong patient.
  • Environmental events: Injuries caused by environmental factors, such as switching the oxygen and gas lines or allowing patients to become burned by a heated device.
  • Radiological events: Injuries caused when an inappropriate object is introduced during an MRI scan or another type of radiological procedure.
  • Care management events: Errors related to a lack of proper care, such as incorrect artificial insemination, medication mistakes, or maternal death during a low-risk pregnancy.
  • Product and medical device events: Injuries caused by defective or contaminated products in the healthcare setting, such as a malfunctioning life support machine.
  • Potential criminal events: Instances of healthcare fraud, sexual abuse, abduction, and other behaviors that could be prosecuted as a crime.

Tracking Medical Never Events

In 1996, the hospital accreditation agency known as The Joint Commission first attempted to track this problem by implementing a formal “sentinel event” policy and requiring all medical facilities to report adverse events. Under this policy, participating healthcare organizations must perform a comprehensive root-cause analysis for any patient safety event that results in death, permanent harm, or severe temporary harm.

In spite of The Joint Commission’s sentinel event policy, never events have continued to pose a serious threat to patients’ lives and safety. In 2013, a study published in the academic journal Surgery estimated that over 4,000 never events happen every year in the United States, extrapolating from the fact that there were 9,744 paid medical malpractice settlements in the years between 1990 and 2010. According to a recent hospital survey released by the independent Leapfrog Group, the 29 never events defined by the NQF still constitute a leading cause of death and injury in the United States.

Seeking Compensation for Medical Never Events

Accidents happen in life – but on the operating table or in the doctor’s office, medical professionals are responsible for your health and safety. While healthcare outcomes are never guaranteed, your medical professionals must avoid obvious hazards and protect you from sustaining further injuries or illnesses in their care.

If you suspect that negligence contributed to complications after receiving care, our team at Brown & Barron, LLC will help you determine the exact cause and fight for justice. It can be difficult to tell when you’ve suffered from a medical never event, but our skilled medical malpractice lawyers have over 75 years of combined experience navigating claims like these, and we can advocate on your behalf.

Call (410) 698-1717 to schedule a free consultation. We’re available 24/7!

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