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Surgical Never Events Happen More Often Than You Think

Doctors have gone through a lot of classroom education, on the job training, testing, and licensing. Hospitals have systems in place to make sure accidents don’t happen. With so many protections in place, how can medical errors happen? The unfortunate truth is that medical accidents happen all the time. Medical errors that cause unnecessary injury, disfigurement, or death are not supposed to happen but they do. What are patients supposed to do when they are a victim of medical errors in Philadelphia?

Never-Events in Medical Care

“Never events” are medical errors or accidents that should never happen. These serious reportable events that occur in hospital settings are supposed to be preventable and are a major concern to both the public and healthcare providers. The National Quality Forum (NQF) refers to 28 events as “never events,” including:

  1. Artificial insemination with the wrong donor
  2. Foreign object left behind after surgery
  3. Patient death or serious disability after patient disappearance
  4. Patient death or serious disability associated with a medication error
  5. Injury or death after a fall in healthcare facility
  6. Wrong body part surgery
  7. Wrong patient surgery
  8. Wrong procedure surgery
  9. Contaminated drugs, device, or biologics causing patient death or serious disability
  10. Infant discharged to the wrong person
  11. Suicide or attempted suicide in a healthcare facility
  12. Severe pressure ulcers after admission to a healthcare facility
  13. Burn injury in healthcare facility
  14. Patient death or serious disability because of restraints or bed rails 
  15. Care by someone impersonating a physician, nurse, or pharmacist 
  16. Patient abduction
  17. Sexual assault on a patient 
  18. Death or significant injury of a patient from a physical assault   

Never-Events Statistics

According to a study by Johns Hopkins Medicine, surgical ‘never events’ occur at least 4,000 times per year in the U.S. According to the researchers, an estimated 80,000 so-called “never events” occurred in American hospitals between 1990 and 2010. However, these estimates are believed to be on the low side because of underreporting. 

Leaving a foreign object inside a patient after surgery happens an astounding 39 times per week. 

It may seem unbelievable that a surgeon could leave behind a foreign object after surgery. Before and during surgery, doctors and healthcare workers are supposed to make sure the patient will be treated in a sterile environment, with sterilized instruments, clean hands, face masks and gloves. How could a doctor just leave behind something when they sew up the patient?

Retained instruments pose a serious health risk to surgery patients. Items like rags, sponges, scalpels, screws, or needles can cause the patient to develop serious pain, infections, or puncture wounds. In many cases, the doctors may not know what is causing the pain and the patient often ends up suffering for years before a left-behind object is discovered. 

Wrong body site surgery happens 20 times a week in the U.S.

It may seem like a nightmare that a patient could go into surgery expecting their left leg to be amputated to wake up and find their right leg gone instead. Unfortunately, wrong-site surgeries are all too common. According to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB), there were 2,217 wrong-site surgical procedures in 13 years. However, this number is likely an underestimate because only one out of every ten wrong-site surgeries gets reported.

Wrongful Death Lawsuit After Fatal Never Event 

When a family member goes into the hospital for a standard procedure and ends up dead, the family is left with a lot of questions. A fatal medical error may be caused by a “never event,” but that might also mean the hospital never tells the family about what happened. 

If you lost a loved one after surgery in Philadelphia, you may have a wrongful death claim for damages. A wrongful death claim can help to make sure the doctors and hospitals are held responsible so that others won’t have to suffer a similar tragedy. Your Philly medical malpractice attorney will help guide you through the difficult process. Call Gilman & Bedigian today at (800) 529-6162 for a free consultation.


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