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What Does the Term ‘Never Event’ Mean?

Gene Riddle   |  March 30, 2018   |  

Doctor in Lab Coat - Medical Malpractice

There are certain medical errors that are so egregious and preventable that they have been given a special nickname. Never events, which are also called “serious reportable events”, are major medical mistakes that should never occur. The National Quality Forum (NQF) maintains a list of several categories of never events that encompass different types of care scenarios. There are never events associated with patient care, patient protection, medical devices and radiology. For purposes of simplicity, our blog is going to cover never events that can occur during surgery.

  1. Wrong-site surgery. As the name implies, this is where a surgical procedure is performed on the wrong part of the body.
  2. Wrong-patient surgery. A surgical procedure could be performed on the wrong patient. In a recent case that occurred in Michigan, an elderly woman died after she mistakenly received brain surgery that had been scheduled for another patient.
  3. Wrong-procedure. The wrong type of surgical procedure could be performed on a patient. For example, a patient could receive the wrong type of heart surgery.
  4. Retained surgical items. Surgeons may leave equipment behind in patients. Surgical sponges, gauze and scissors that are left behind may injure or kill patients. Items left behind may become infected over time or they can pierce organs.
  5. Interoperative or immediate post-operative errors. Preventable operative or post-operative deaths involving ASA Class I patients (healthy patients) may be considered never events.

Unfortunately, the errors listed above affect hundreds or even thousands of Americans each year. For instance, a 2013 Joint Commission study determined there were 772 reported cases of retained surgical items from 2005 to 2012. These were only the cases that were reported to the Joint Commission. Not all hospitals in the US receive Joint Commission accreditation. Therefore, the real number could be higher.

Contact Our North Carolina Medical Malpractice Lawyers

Never events are likely to cause patients significant harm. Death is another possible outcome. Patients harmed by never events and their family members deserve justice. If you or a loved one were harmed by a medical mistake, then please reach out to one of the North Carolina medical malpractice lawyers at Riddle & Brantley, LLP.

At Riddle & Brantley, LLP, Justice Counts.