There is an implied trust between patient and doctor when it comes to our medical care, diagosis and treatment. We trust medical providers to make the right decisions, act with care and work toward the best possible outcomes for our specific health care issue.

Unfortunately, mistakes happen. As a patient or decision maker for your loved ones, it is important to know what mistakes doctors or healthcare professionals should never make. These specific errors are called “never events,” and are considered medical malpractice.

In simple terms, a never event is exactly that – a mistake so extreme it literally should never happen.  Coined by Ken Kizer, MD, former CEO of the National Quality Forum, a never event is an error that should never occur, under any condition. Never events are also sometimes referred to as sentinel events.

Never events fall into one of seven categories:

Surgical mistakes

Examples: Performing surgery on the wrong patient or wrong body part or leaving an item (such as a surgical sponge or medical instrument) inside a patient’s body.

Product or device mistakes

Examples: The use of a contaminated device or drug that results in the death of a patient.

Environmental events

Examples: Oxygen lines containing the wrong gas, electrical shock, and the use of restraints that result in serious injury or death.

Radiological events

Examples: A metal object left in the MRI area results in serious injury or death.

Patient protection mistakes

Examples: A patient unable to care for themselves discharged to an unauthorized person, a patient disappearing from a medical facility and injured or killed as a result, or a patient committing or attempting suicide while in a medical facility.

Medical care management events

Examples: There are many errors that can fall into this category. Examples include the unsafe administration of blood products that result in serious injury or death, harm to mother or baby during childbirth in a low-risk pregnancy, a patient developing stage three or four bed sores, the loss of a biological specimen or the serious injury or death of a patient due to a failure to provide adequate follow-up care.

Criminal acts

Examples: Fraud, abuse and assault inside a medical facility – such as medical care provided by someone impersonating a medical professional, an abduction of a patient, or sexual or physical abuse of a patient by a medical care provider in a medical facility.

The above are all situations and events that should never happen in a healthcare facility or setting. If they do, then the medical professional or entity can be held legally responsible.

How Common are Never Events?

Unfortunately, never events are more common than we often think.

According to a 2012 study performed by researchers at John Hopkins University, there are 80,000 never events that happen in American hospitals every year.

Here are three statistics on the frequency of never events, compiled by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality:

  1. More than 4,000 surgical never events occur each year in the U.S., according to a 2013 study.
  2. The average hospital may experience a wrong-site surgery case once every 5 to 10 years, according to a 2006 study.
  3. The majority — 71 percent — of never events reportedto The Joint Commission between 1995 and 2015 were fatal.

What if you or a loved one experience a Never Event?

In the unfortunate case that you or someone you love suffers an injury due to a never event, you likely have a strong case for a medical malpractice lawsuit. To ensure the best possible outcome, it is important to work with an experienced and knowledgeable medical malpractice attorney.

Lukenbill & Lukenbill’s experienced attorneys, including Jill D. Manges, who is both an attorney and registered nurse, can walk you through the process, assist in reviewing medical documents and prepare you for a medical malpractice or wrongful death lawsuit. Contact us to learn more or ask any questions that you might have. At Lukenbill, we handle medical malpractice cases on a contingency basis, so you do not pay unless you receive a financial recovery.