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What Are Surgical Never Events?

Doctors and surgeons owe a duty of care to patients. This involves providing safe, effective, and accurate medical procedures to result in an improved quality of life and wellbeing. However, surgeons sometimes breach that duty of care by acting recklessly or negligently, resulting in serious and sometimes even fatal harm. Surgical never events is a term coined by Ken Kizer of the National Quality Forum (NQF). It refers to surgical mistakes that should never have happened.

There are 3 main types of surgical never events. These include:

  1. Operating on the wrong site (such as removing the wrong body part)
  2. Operating on the wrong patient
  3. Operating with the wrong procedure

Leaving swabs or medical instruments inside the patient’s body and implanting the wrong device or prosthesis also count as surgical never events. These mistakes, while rare, often have devastating consequences. In fact, it is estimated that about 71% are fatal. For a typical hospital, a surgical never event may occur once every 5 to 10 years, according to a 2006 study. They are entirely preventable, and healthcare organizations and state legislators are taking action to help overcome this problem.

Causes of Surgical Never Events

Physician negligence and carelessness contributes to surgical never events. However, a main cause that studies found was miscommunication between the participants in the surgery. A lack of teamwork and failure to communicate with the patients, nurses, hospital staff, and surgeons is a main contributing factor of these gross mistakes. Furthermore, failure to properly count the medical instruments and swabs, as well as not getting the patient’s consent prior to the procedure, can lead to a surgical never event.

Prevention of Surgical Never Events

Because these incidents are so severe, hospitals and medical organizations are imposing safety procedures and protocols to try and keep them from happening. The World Health Organization produced a safe surgical checklist in 2008. This checklist requires surgeons to make sure every detail is accounted for prior to a surgery, before the anesthesia is even administered or an incision is made. By using this checklist as a tool to increase safety, surgeons can avoid making a serious mistake regarding the patient’s care.

Furthermore, a surgical timeout can help increase communication and teamwork with those involved in the procedure. Surgical timeouts, imposed by The Joint Commission’s Universal Protocol, require surgeons to take a pause before every surgical procedure to discuss the details and important aspects with all the personnel in the operating room. This can help avoid a serious mistake and make sure everyone is on the same page before the surgery even begins.

Call Our Detroit Medical Malpractice Attorneys Today at (248) 793-2010

At Goodman Acker P.C. we have successfully obtained settlements for numerous victims of medical malpractice. While preventative measures are being taken, surgical never events are still occurring. If you or a loved one have suffered from a surgical never event, or other injury due to the carelessness of your healthcare provider, our firm can help. We can investigate the incident, build your case, and represent you as you pursue the compensation you deserve.

Contact us today for a free case review.