Personal Injury Lawyers

D.C. Medical Malpractice "Never Events" Happen More Often Than You'd Think

When you hear the term “never event,” you likely think of something that does not occur. This is an accurate definition, and it explains why the term is used to describe medical mistakes that should never, ever happen. For example, a doctor operating on the wrong patient is something that should never happen. A doctor operating on the wrong surgical site should not ever occur. A doctor leaving a sponge or surgical instrument inside of a patient should not ever happen.

Unfortunately, a recent study shows that these “never events” actually aren’t never events at all. Instead, they are far too common and happen thousands of times per year. Our Washington, D.C. personal injury attorneys want to warn everyone seeking any type of medical care about the new study showing the prevalence of never events. We urge patients to review the reputations of their surgeons and hospitals very carefully before undergoing any medical treatment in order to avoid becoming the victim of an unthinkable medical mistake.

New Study Shows “Never Events” Are Common Events

The new study was conducted by Johns Hopkins University using a review of past medical malpractice claims and judgments over the past twenty years. Based on the information available to researchers, estimates were arrived at regarding how often “never events” occur. The never events were defined as operating on the wrong patient or the wrong site or leaving something inside of a patient.

The data revealed that:

  • Around 80,000 never events happened between 1990 and 2010 at hospitals throughout the United States.
  • Never events happen at least 4,000 times annually throughout the U.S. The estimates may be low because sometimes a patient doesn’t find out for weeks, months, years or ever that a surgical instrument has been left inside.
  • Approximately 39 times each week, a surgical towel, surgical tool or other medical device is left inside of a patient who has undergone a surgical procedure.
  • Approximately 20 times each week, a patient wakes up to find that a doctor performed the wrong surgical procedure on him or her.
  • Approximately 20 times every week, a patient undergoes surgery on the incorrect body part.

These figures are shocking and tragic. When a doctor makes a mistake of this type and this severity, patients suffer greatly. In some cases, patients may never recover 100 percent or get back their full health because of what the doctor has done to them. In especially tragic cases, a patient may die as a result of the mistake the physician made. For example, a patient with a surgical instrument left inside could develop an unexplained infection and could be killed as a result before anyone gets to the bottom of what occurred.

When these never events occur, doctors must be held accountable for making a mistake that should never be made. The doctors who make these types of mistakes are very obviously negligent, and patients can thus file medical malpractice claims in order to obtain payment of medical costs and other compensation for their resulting injuries and losses.

If you have been injured by medical malpractice, contact the Mike Slocumb Law Firm at 1-800-HURTLINE.