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The truly frightening realm of medical malpractice “never” events

On Behalf of | Dec 30, 2020 | Medical Malpractice |

What do residents of New Jersey, New York and elsewhere across the United States expect concerning the performance of medical professionals they rely upon for diagnosis and treatment?

Candidly, it is not perfection. The general public well appreciates that the practice of medicine comprises a complex sphere. Doctors and other care providers are not infallible in matters surrounding their work. They are human, after all.

It is certainly a reasonable expectation that they are competent in their craft, though. After all, a license to practice can be secured only by individuals who have duly completed stringent educational, testing and continued training requirements established by industry authorities. Health professionals are held to an established standard of care, and patients are legally entitled to rely upon it.

That means this: Patient harms can often be directly tied to instances where that care standard is not achieved. One legal source on medical error and resulting patient injury spotlights “departure from generally accepted standards” and the frightening real-world implications that any such lapse in care delivery presents in legions of care scenarios.

There is a single word that manifestly denotes that care lapse, namely, negligence. When negligence rears its head in a medical setting, adverse outcomes – sometimes catastrophic and even deadly – are sadly common.

An outlier universe of medical error: so-called “never” events

Some acts or medical omissions yield patient harm that, while notable, does not reap especially adverse consequences.

Others have a flatly devastating impact.

The prominent medical magazine Becker’s Healthcare takes a detailed look at truly dire medical errors termed never events that often lead to horrific treatment results.

Never events – which by their very definition should never occur – are subsumed within the larger category of “sentinel events,” which Becker’s notes lead to outcomes marked by “death, permanent harm, severe temporary harm or intervention required to sustain life.”

Here are some commonly reported never events:

  • Foreign body retained by a patient following surgery (e.g., a sponge or scalpel)
  • Procedure done on a wrong patient or body part, or wrong-procedure surgery performed
  • Medication mistake
  • Diagnostic error (missed, delayed or simply wrong)
  • Lax supervision leading to patient fall
  • Criminal event, such as assault committed by health workers

There are additional and equally egregious events that can be bulleted, but the point concerning never events is clearly conveyed via even a briefly representative list.

Becker’s states that 4,000-plus surgical never events occur annually in American medical facilities.

And their consequences are too often deadly. A documented measuring period tracking such events revealed that more than 70% of them resulted in patient fatalities.