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Never Events: Medical Mistakes that Should Never Happen

Johns Hopkins University safety researchers recently conducted an exhaustive study regarding the frequency of “never events”—which refer to the types of medical mistakes that should never happen.

In this study, it was discovered that, on average, medical professionals throughout the U.S. are:

  • Leaving foreign objects in a patient’s body 39 times a week
  • Performing the wrong procedure on a patient 20 times a week
  • Operating on the wrong part of the body 20 times a week

According to reports from Surgery, an online medical journal, it is estimated that 80,000 never events occurred in American hospitals between 1990 and 2010.

Their findings were the first to quantify the national rate of these so-called “never events,” shedding light on the prevalence of this problem.

Understanding the High Cost of “Never Events”

According to Marty Makary, M.D., M.P.H., an associate professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and study leader, “This study highlights that we are nowhere near where we should be.” When Makary and his colleagues conducted further research into the issue, they discovered that 9,744 malpractice claims involved never events between 1990 and 2010.

These claims resulted in total payments of $1.3 billion for victims and their families. They also discovered that, in regard to never events, patient death occurred in 6.6% of cases, permanent injury occurred in 32.9% of cases, and temporary injury occurred in 59.2% of cases. In conclusion, Makary and his colleagues have estimated that 4,044 surgical never events occur in the U.S. every year.

What Is Being Done to Solve This Issue?

To prevent never events, many medical centers will use standard patient safety procedures. These may include mandatory “timeouts,” wherein the surgeons must match the medical records and surgical plans to the patient before beginning the operation, indelible ink to mark the surgical site on the patient’s body, procedures for counting sponges, towels, and surgical items prior to surgery, and more.

However, even with these procedures in place, never events continue to happen. In fact, Domina Law Group recently resolved a medical malpractice claim involving a never event—which caused our client to suffer a permanent impairment of her limb. “We have another such case in progress now,” explains Dave Domina. If you too have been injured by a never event, please give us a call today.

Our Omaha personal injury lawyers have recovered more than $2 billion for past clients. Find out how Domina Law Group can help by contacting our office today.

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