Surgical Errors That Should Never Happen, But Do
Mistakes happen. But some mistakes are inexcusable. Surgical mistakes that should NEVER happen are called “never events,” yet they happen at least 4,000 times a year in the United States according to research from Johns Hopkins University. While some mistakes in health care are simply not preventable even if everyone does everything correctly, “never events” are completely preventable.
Malpractice Claims Reveal Disturbing Statistics About Surgical Errors
The prevalence of “never events” has been revealed through the analysis of national malpractice claims. It has been observed that over 80,000 “never events” have occurred between 1990 and 2010.
It has been estimated that a surgeon leaves foreign objects inside a patient at least 39 times per week. This includes things like towels or sponges. This is in addition to surgeons performing the wrong surgery or operating on the wrong body part, which happens about 20 times per week.
A study examined data from the National Practitioner Data Bank which handles medical malpractice claims to calculate the total number of “never events.” Over a 20-year time span, they found more than 9,744 malpractice claims costing more than $1.3 billion dollars collectively. Of these cases, 6.6% of the patients died, 32.9% were permanently injured, and 59.2% were temporarily injured.
Most of these “never events” occurred among patients in their late 40’s. Surgeons in the same age group were involved in more than one-third of the events.
One of the most disturbing statistics is the fact that 62% of surgeons involved in “never events” were involved in more than one incident. This alarming discovery reinforces the obvious need to improve enforcement efforts for preventable surgical errors.
Efforts to Minimize Preventable Surgical Errors
Several safety procedures have been put in place in hospitals to avoid these events. There are timeouts in operating rooms to check if surgical plans match what the patient wants. To avoid operating on the wrong body part, a marker or pen is used to mark the site of surgery during pre-op. Electronic bar codes are put on sponges, towels and other surgical instruments so that they can be counted before and after surgery.
What Can You Do?
If you have been the victim of a surgical error, it is extremely important to report the event to the public. By doing so, other patients will have more information about where to go for surgery. This will also pressure hospitals and medical centers to be more conscious about their quality of care. Hospitals are supposed to report these events when they happen; however, these reports often get overlooked because of a lack of enforcement.
Medical negligence and malpractice lawsuits are probably the most effective consequence for surgical errors. Researchers have found that paid malpractice settlements and judgments for “never events” occurred about 10,000 times in the United States between 1990 and 2010.
These “never events” are absolutely preventable and totally inexcusable. People have become more sensitized and reporting is getting better for when these events occur.