What Are “Never Events” in Medical Malpractice?


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When you visit a doctor, you are relying on their knowledge and competence concerning your medical care, diagnosis, and treatment. You depend on them to make the right decisions and to provide you with the best outcome for your specific medical situation. Unfortunately, doctors are not perfect. They make mistakes. While it’s understandable that some mistakes will happen, there are certain mistakes that no doctor should ever make. These shocking, egregious errors are called “never events” and they are considered to be medical malpractice.

What is a Never Event?

Basically, a never event is a mistake that is so extreme, it is inexcusable. These are errors that should never occur, under any conditions, so they have been labeled “never events.” The following is a list of some mistakes that are defined as never events:

  • Surgical mistakes – Errors occurring during surgery that are considered never events include performing surgery on the wrong patient or wrong body part or leaving an item inside a patient’s body (for example, a surgical sponge, medical instrument, or medical device).
  • Product or device mistakes – Never events involving products or devices include the misuse of a device or the use of a contaminated device or drug that results in the death of the patient.
  • Environmental events – These never events include oxygen lines containing the wrong gas or no gas at all, electrical shock, burn injuries, and the use of restraints that result in serious injury or death.
  • Radiological events – When a metal object is introduced into the MRI area and the mistake causes serious injury or death, it is considered a never event.
  • Patient protection mistakes – When a patient who is unable to care for himself is discharged to someone who is not an authorized person, or the patient disappears from the medical facility, and there is a subsequent injury, disability, or death, it may be considered a never event. Additionally, if a patient commits suicide or attempts to commit suicide while being cared for in a medical facility, it may be considered a never event.
  • Medical care management events – Never events in this category are numerous. They may include medication errors or the unsafe administration of blood products that result in serious injury or death, harm to mother or baby during childbirth in a pregnancy designated low-risk, the loss of a biological specimen, artificial insemination with the wrong donor egg or sperm, or the serious injury or death of a patient due to a failure to provide adequate follow-up care. Other care management never events may include if a patient develops stage three or four pressure ulcers (bed sores), or if a patient suffers a serious fall while in a medical facility.
  • Criminal acts – If medical care is provided by someone who is impersonating a medical professional, if there is an abduction of a patient, or there is sexual or physical abuse of a patient by a medical care provider in a medical facility, it is considered a never event.

The above are all situations and events that should never happen in a healthcare facility or setting. If they do, then the medical professional or entity can be held legally responsible for the event.

How Common are Never Events?

Unfortunately, never events are more common than you can imagine. According to a 2012 study performed by researchers at John Hopkins University, there are 80,000 never events that happen in American hospitals every year. Data from the study includes the following staggering statistics:

  • A foreign object is left inside a patient after surgery approximately 39 times each week.
  • Surgeons perform operations on the wrong body parts of patients about 20 times each week.
  • Surgeons perform the wrong procedure on patients about 20 times each week.

Moreover, the study found that never event mistakes were often made by surgeons who had a track record of previous errors. In fact, nearly two-thirds of surgeons were cited with multiple malpractice occurrences.

What Should You Do If You Are a Victim of a Never Event?

If you or your loved one suffers an injury due to a never event, you likely have a strong case for a medical malpractice lawsuit against the medical professional or facility where the event occurred. That means that you could receive financial compensation for your injuries and other damages that you experienced as a result of the medical mistake.

Even though you may have a strong case for a medical malpractice lawsuit, it is important that you obtain an experienced and knowledgeable medical malpractice attorney to represent you and ensure that you obtain the best possible outcome for your claim.

Ross Feller Casey has an unrivaled record of victories in medical malpractice lawsuits and has a team of experienced medical malpractice attorneys and doctors to review your case. Contact us today for a free evaluation. We handle medical malpractice cases on a contingency basis, so you don’t pay unless you receive a financial recovery.

Disclaimer: Ross Feller Casey, LLP provides legal advice only after an attorney-client relationship is formed. Our website is an introduction to the firm and does not create a relationship between our attorneys and clients. An attorney-client relationship is formed only after a written agreement is signed by the client and the firm. Because every case is unique, the description of awards and summary of cases successfully handled are not intended to imply or guarantee that same success in other cases. Ross Feller Casey, LLP represents catastrophically injured persons and their families in injury and wrongful death cases, providing legal representation in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.