“Never Events” Are Actually “Often Events” That Lead to Serious Injury or Death

In virtually all medical malpractice cases expert witnesses are needed to explain some of the more complex elements of the case to the judge or jury.  In most matters, the experts will identify what a standard of care is in any given area and then explain if the defendant-medical professional did or did not meet that standard.  This expert opinion is critical, because it is otherwise impossible for a lay person to truly know what should have been done.  For example, a case may center on the misreading of a test which prevented a timely diagnosis.  The jury cannot be expected to look at the test itself and determine on their own if the doctor should have identified the problem.  Only another professional can explain what should have been spotted.

Yet, that is not to say that the typical community member is unable to identify negligence on their own in all medical malpractice matters.  For example, some mistakes are so obvious that it is virtually a given that errors were made.  In the medical community these mistakes are often called “Never Events,” because there is simply no excuse for their ever being committed.  This include things like leaving objects inside the patient’s body or performing the wrong operation.

Believe or not, these “never events” occur far from never--they strike thousands of times every year in hospitals across the country.  Last month a John Hopkins University study was released which sheds light on the scope of the problem.  The findings are not pretty.

4,000 “Never Events” a Year

According to a Wall Street Journal <a href="http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324461604578189643993571734.html" target= "_blank">article</a> summarizing the academic effort, researchers found that that at least 4,082 “never events” occur each year.  They reached that number  after culling through reams of data available at the National Practitioner Data Bank.  Even then, the lead author suggested that the finding are almost assuredly low, considering they do not include those patients who may have suffered one of these errors without filing suit or coming forward.

Of those errors, about six percent ultimately cause the death of the patient.  Another thirty two percent of patients suffer serious, permanent injury because of the mistake.  The severe consequences of this medical malpractice is not necessarily surprising, considering that on most occasions the problem is only discovered when the patient returns to the hospital to deal with complications.  It is only then that the new problem, like an infection, is traced back to some previous surgical mistakes, like leaving a sponge in the body. 

Fixing the Problem

Many patient safety experts are using this high-profile study to call attention to the problem and demand changes.  For example, an expert from Harvard University and leader in the patient safety field suggested that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services likely need to up the financial penalties for hospitals making these errors. She explained, “If hospitals were fined $100,000 for a wrong-site surgery, and double that for a repeat incident, it would make the news, and they would get serious about it."

It is in that same vein that individual patients harmed by these errors and their families can use the civil justice system to demand accountable and push these facilities to do the work necessary to prevent future harm.  Families in Baltimore and surrounding communities who have been hurt in this way are encouraged to contact the <a href="http://www.mdattorney.com/lawyer-attorney-1300960.html" target= "_blank">medical malpractice attorneys</a> at our firm at 410-385-2225  to see how we can help.