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What is a "Never Event" in Surgery?

The McClellan Law Firm

What is a “Never Event” in Surgery?

Surgical errors and complications happen hundreds of thousands of times every year. They happen so often that researchers from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine believe that medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States,[1] and are responsible for over 250,000 deaths each year. Some of these errors are so egregious that they should never occur, and yet still do, leading to their classification as “Never Events.”

Approximately 4,000 Never Events occur each year, and between 1990 and 2010, medical malpractice lawsuits involving these types of events ended up compensating victims approximately $1.3 billion.[2] There are four types of surgical errors classified as Never Events:

  • Operating on the wrong body part: Whether the confusion came from a clerical error, miscommunication between the surgeon and the rest of the hospital staff, a misreading of films or records, or some other cause, this type of error happens approximately 20 times per week across the United States, and can lead to anything from healthy body parts being removed, to death.
  • Performing the wrong surgery on a patient: Similar to operating on the wrong body part, sometimes surgeons perform the entirely wrong surgery on their patient. In the worst cases, the proper surgery needed to be performed immediately, and the unnecessary delay from performing the wrong one led to severe complications or death.
  • Operating on the wrong patient: Sometimes the miscommunication, clerical error, or failure to determine the patient’s necessary surgery is so severe that the surgeon ends up operating on the wrong person altogether. This type of error happens approximately 20 times per week across the United States, and can lead to similar complications as the ones listed above.
  • Leaving a foreign object in the patient after surgery: According to researchers, surgeons accidently leave a foreign object like a towel, sponge, glove, or other type of medical supply, inside a patient 39 times a week. Depending on what type of object was left inside and where it was left, this type of error can lead to a variety of symptoms, including pain, infections, and death.

Never Events are supposed to be as advertised: never occurring. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. Thousands of people’s lives are put at risk every year because of these completely preventable errors, and the people responsible for those mistakes need to be held responsible. Our San Diego medical malpractice attorneys at The McClellan Law Firm pursue maximum compensation in every case, so you know you’re in good hands when you turn to us. Visit our website for a free case consultation, or give us a call at (619) 215-1488 to speak with one of our medical malpractice lawyers.