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Surgical “Never Events” Occurring Far More Frequently than Expected

April 6, 2018

Grave mistakes in the operating room. How to defend yourself after the fact.

Recent research out of Johns Hopkins University suggests that American surgeons may not be as diligent as we think. The study found heightened occurrences of surgical tools being left in the body, wrong procedures completed, and operations on incorrect body parts or regions.

These three surgical mistakes are collectively called “never events” because as a medical surgeon, these errors should literally never happen.

Unfortunately, these events occur all too often; here are some of the more alarming figures found in the publication:

foreign surgical objects are left inside a patient’s body about 2,028 times per year

the incorrect procedure is performed about 1,040 times per year

operations on the wrong body site or region occur about 1,040 times per year

The study was conducted using the National Practitioner Data Bank, a federal repository of medical negligence claims. They identified 9,744 paid malpractice judgments and claims over those 20 years, with payments totaling $1.3 billion. The death occurred in 6.6 percent of patients, permanent injury in 32.9 percent and temporary injury in 59.2 percent.

Frighteningly, this pool of data only includes occurrences where individuals chose to pursue legal action. The authors acknowledge that the actual rate of “never events” is undoubtedly higher than proposed in the study.

There is universal consensus that these types of errors should never happen during surgery under any circumstances. However, the study determined over 4,000 occurrences in the past year. In real terms, this means that at least 4,000 individuals were put at life-threatening risk due to careless mistakes of operating surgeons. Documenting the magnitude of the problem, the researchers say, is an important step in developing better systems to ensure never events live up to their name.

If you or someone you know is a victim of a “never event,” and looking for medical negligence claims we suggest consulting an attorney with experience in medical malpractice lawsuits. There are no explanations for such grave mistakes in the operating room. A legal professional may be able to help recover a settlement for your resulting injuries, time missed from work, and pain & suffering.