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What is a “Never Event”?

Stethscope and a medical error sign

When a patient is undergoing treatment for a medical condition or after an accident, certain adverse effects can be unavoidable. However, some medical mistakes are considered so egregious that experts state that such errors should never occur—thus giving them the name “never events.” Read on to learn more about the different types of never events and the liability which can result to hospitals from this type of medical malpractice.

The US Department of Health and Human Services defines “never events” as “adverse events that are unambiguous (clearly identifiable and measurable), serious (resulting in death or significant disability), and usually preventable.” There are seven different categories of never events, under which 29 separate events are grouped:

  1. Surgical: examples include surgery on the wrong patient, leaving objects in a patient, or wrong-site surgery (ex: a patient’s kidney is removed, rather than their gall bladder)
  2. Product or device: these events include a patient being injured or killed by contaminated drug
  3. Patient protection: These events include a patient being injured after disappearing from their room
  4. Care management: examples include mistaken dosage of a drug being given to a patient, or patient injury after a fall while the patient is receiving treatment
  5. Environmental: These events include electrocution or burn of a patient by malfunctioning equipment
  6. Radiologic: Injury to a patient from a metal object being brought into an MRI area
  7. Criminal: Abuse, abduction, or assault of a patient.

While never events are rare, they tend to have tragic effects on patients and their families. One study found that approximately 80 surgical never events occur in the United States each week. According to the Joint Commission – a hospital accreditation organization – 71% of the never events reported to that body resulted in a fatality. Never events can also be financially burdensome to hospitals, with each never event resulting in an average payout of over $133,000. Since such mistakes can often be prevented through strict adherence to protocols and use of checklists, courts tend to look unfavorably on medical professionals who commit such errors.

If you or someone you love has been the victim of a medical error or never event, speak with an experienced medical malpractice attorney to determine if you may have a legal claim for damages. In Maryland, contact the Rockville offices of Brault Graham, LLC for a consultation, at 301-424-1060.

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