When a person undergoes
surgery, they usually assume that the procedure will improve the quality of their
life. However, because of human error, many things can go wrong during
a surgery. Preventable incidents that should never have happened are referred
to as “never events.” Never events that can happen during
a surgery include operating on the wrong part of the body, performing
the wrong procedure, leaving instruments inside the body, or having the
wrong medical device implanted.
While some never events can be devastating, like having a body part wrongly
removed, others can be fatal. Never events occur more frequently than
most people think. In fact, a BBC investigation revealed more than 750
recorded instances of never events that have taken place throughout England
in the past 4 years. It’s important to note that the complexity
of a patient’s medical condition and a surgeon’s technical
competence are not the only determinants of how a person will recover
after surgery. Surgical harm can sometimes be caused by a lack of communication
or poor teamwork.
Examples of surgical never events include:
- Wrong Site Surgery
- Wrong Implant/Prosthesis
- Retained Foreign Object Post-Operation
Recently, John Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland
conducted a research study on patient safety. Interestingly, their study
estimated that "a surgeon in the United States leaves a foreign object
such as a sponge or towel inside a patient's body after an operation
39 times a week, performs the wrong procedure on a patient 20 times a
week, and operates on the wrong body site 20 times a week." Furthermore,
researchers concluded that about 4,044 never events occur in the United
States every year.
Hospitals have safeguards in place to to prevent these types of mistakes.
Most surgical teams have instituted mandatory "time-outs" in
the operating room. During these time-outs, the surgical team is required
to match their surgical plans with the patient on the table. The teams
are also required to count items like sponges and towels before and after
surgery. However, many critics feel that more needs to be done, including
public reporting of surgical never events.
Have more questions about surgical never events? Contact our team of Washington DC medical malpractice attorneys
to learn how we can help you today.