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What are 'never events' in medical malpractice?

When a patient sees a doctor for treatment, he or she expects to receive the proper treatment. This could include surgery, further testing or medications. During surgery, there are many 'never events' that can occur.

A never event is an occurrence during surgery that might include a sponge or surgical towel being left inside a patient. Other examples of never events include operating on the wrong surgical site or removing a healthy organ instead of the diseased one.

Johns Hopkins published a study in Surgery in December 2012 that showed just how prevalent these never events are. For two decades beginning in 1990, the researchers estimated that there were 80,000 never events. They believe this number is actually low.

The researchers took data from the National Practitioner Data Bank, which records medical malpractice awards and settlements reached out-of-court. These numbers are from Connecticut as well as the rest of the country. Researchers estimated that 20 wrong site surgeries and 20 surgeries involving the wrong organ occur each week. In addition, they estimated that 39 foreign objects are left behind in a patient each week.

These numbers are frightening. For some of these never event patients, an injury or illness may have resulted. Others may have died. As a victim of a never event, you have rights. These rights include pursuing a medical malpractice claim against the doctor, medical staff and even the facility where the event happened.

Medical malpractice cases can be complex and long. It's important to have a skilled, experienced attorney handling your case. You will find that he or she can provide you with the guidance and advice you need.

Source: Johns Hopkins Medicine, "Johns Hopkins Malpractice Study: Surgical ‘Never Events’ Occur At Least 4,000 Times per Year" Oct. 30, 2014

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