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‘Never Events’ in the Healthcare Industry

Updated on: 11/12/2019

Hospital Patients

We all understand that mistakes happen, and we are typically willing to forgive our fellow human beings for their errors. This is not typically the case, however, when it comes to medical errors in the hospital.

When we go to the hospital, we have a reasonable expectation that the purpose is to recover from current or previous injuries or illnesses, not to be reinjured or suffer additional illnesses during our stay. But unfortunately, all too often the latter is the reality.

Abundance of Medical Errors

According to Premiere Inc., a leading collaborative healthcare organization that works with thousands of providers across the country to improve the safety of modern healthcare strategies, falls make up the largest single category of all reported on-site incidents.

In addition, a summary on Premiere’s website says “the morbidity, mortality and financial burdens attributed to patient falls in hospitals and other healthcare settings are among the most serious risk management issues facing the healthcare industry.”

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has a list of medical errors that are considered entirely preventable and should never happen, also called “never events.” These “never events” are so traumatic and preventable that authorities at the HHS have determined they should never, ever happen.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), a leading U.S. patient advocacy organization, has broken down the frequency of various 'never events' as shown in the graph below: 

Never Events

Advocating for Victims

Seattle medical malpractice attorney Chris Davis, who is also the founder of the Seattle-based Davis Law Group, says the HHS’s ruling on these “never events” is spot-on.

“In creating the list of ‘never events,’ the Department of Health and Human Services has made it obvious that it is entirely unacceptable for a patient to be injured in a fall during a hospital visit,” Davis says.

And while labeling these tragic incidents as “never events” is quite appropriate, Premiere Inc.’s analysis of the issue indicates that they actually occur quite often. In fact, a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) suggests that approximately 1,500 cases involving surgical souvenirs – instances where a doctor or healthcare provider accidentally leaves a medical instrument or other device inside of the patient’s body – occur every year in the United States. Medical errors are the fifth-leading cause of death in the United States, which makes this statistic even more troubling. 

Though much progress has been made in the world of patient safety over the years, it is clear that these 'never events' are potentially affecting thousands of innocent healthcare patients every year in our country. And when medical mistakes lead to serious injury and sometimes even death, it is important that the victims and their families seek the assistance of a qualified medical malpractice lawyer

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