Medical Negligence Nightmares: Never Events

Published on June 17th, 2019

Medical Negligence Nightmares: Never EventsIn March 2019, the 13th Circuit Court ruled in favor of a deceased Traverse City man who was forced to forgo leukemia treatment after complications from bariatric surgery. The surgeon did not order a pre-op sleep study, causing him to recommend the wrong surgery. After having the more dangerous and complicated surgery, the patient struggled with respiratory failure, vomiting, and bowel issues. Unfortunately, this kind of medical negligence is common. Doctors make mistakes, miss things, and patients suffer.

Although medical negligence can devastate victims and families, some mistakes are so egregious they cause permanent disability and death. These mistakes are called never events, a term with which you might not be familiar if you don’t work in a medical field. These avoidable mistakes are rare, yet nonetheless happen far too often. If you or a loved one has suffered irreparable harm or died during any phase of medical treatment, contact the medical malpractice attorneys at Thurswell Law at (248) 354-2222 to learn how we can help you seek compensation for your loss.

What Is a Never Event?

Dr. Ken Kizer, the former CEO of the National Quality Forum (NQF), introduced the concept of a never event in 2001. Never events refer to horrifying medical errors that should never occur. Over the past decades, doctors, hospital administrators, and other medical professionals have broadened the definition of a never event to include all preventable severe events, resulting in disability or death. Currently, the NQF includes 29 “serious reportable events,” split into seven groups, as never events:

  • Surgical or procedural events. These never events occur when a doctor or other medical professional performs a surgery or procedure on the wrong person or the wrong body party or when a medical professional performs the wrong procedure on a patient. Leaving foreign objects in a patient’s body after surgery, and the improper administration of anesthesia also fall into this group of never events.
  • Product or device events. When drugs or medical devices are contaminated in a healthcare facility, they might lead to harm or death. The improper use of any medical equipment or device which leads to injury or death is a product or device never event.
  • Patient protection events. If a patient suffers harm or injury because a medical facility discharged him too soon, or released him to an unauthorized person, it qualifies as a patient protection never event. Events in this category also include attempted suicide, suicide, and other types of self-harm while in a medical facility.
  • Care management events. These are the most common of all never events because the vast majority of healthcare interactions include care management. Never events include injury or fatality from medication errors, improper blood transfusions, injury or death to a newborn or mother during labor or delivery of a low-risk pregnancy, and artificially inseminating someone with the wrong sperm or egg. Falls and bedsores in a healthcare environment also serve as examples of never events as well as death or injury when a medical professional fails to provide test results.
  • Environmental events. When patients die or sustain injury from electric shocks, mix-ups in oxygen and gas lines, or toxic exposure, they have been the victim of an environmental never event. The improper use of restraints and bed rails leading to injury is also a never event, as well as burns when a patient receives care.
  • Radiologic events. This refers to the extremely rare occasion that a medical professional or patient brings metal into an MRI area, causing severe injury or death.
  • Criminal events. Although the previously mentioned never events are egregious and awful ordeals for victims and families, criminal never events might be the worst of all. A criminal never event occurs when the liable party intended to harm or decisively neglect a patient. Impersonating a doctor, the abduction of a patient, and patient or resident abuse are more than never events—they are crimes. Assault and battery in a medical environment is also a never event, expecially if it causes severe injury or death.

How Often Do Never Events Occur?

A division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), claims never events are extremely rare. Yet, little research has been done on a general level; most studies in the last couple of decades focus on surgical errors. A 2006 study reported the average hospital performs the wrong surgery or procedure on a patient between every five and ten years.

A later 2013 study reports over 4,000 surgery-related never events occur in the United States each year. Even though never events do not regularly occur, when they do happen, the results are catastrophic. Over 70 percent of never events result in death, revealing poor safety practices at a particular hospital or facility.

Contact a Michigan Medical Malpractice Attorney

Many never events immediately cause severe injury or death, but sometimes a victim might not discover they have been harmed for days, weeks, or even months, especially when foreign objects remain in a post-op patient. Michigan law imposes strict limits on how long you have to file suit, so don’t delay in contacting an attorney to explore your rights.

If you or your loved one has suffered harm or died as a result of a never event, you need to hold those who cared for you liable for their negligence. Money will not undo the past, but it can help reduce some or all of the financial stress associated with a severe accident. Additionally, taking legal action will help protect others from facing a similar fate in the future.

Contact our experienced medical malpractice lawyers at Thurswell Law at (248) 354-2222 or contact us online. We proudly help injured persons throughout Michigan hold parties liable for negligence and seek the compensation they deserve for their injuries.

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