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Never Events: medical errors that should never happen

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While every medical procedure carries risks, the general goal is to help a person heal and be better off than they were before. There are, however, some medical errors that can happen that end up leaving the patient in much worse condition than they were before. The National Quality Forum (NQF) coined the term "Never Event" to describe a list of medical errors that the medical community agrees should never happen. Since the list's inception in 2001, it has expanded to include 29 serious events.

The criteria for a Never Event includes adverse medical events that are unambiguous (clearly identifiable and measurable), serious (resulting in death or serious injury), and usually preventable. The events range across 7 categories: surgical events, medical product or device events, patient protection events, medical care management events, environmental events, radiologic events, and criminal events. A few examples of Never Events include performing surgery on the wrong body part or the wrong patient, leaving a foreign object in a patient after a procedure, death or serious injury resulting from patient elopement (disappearance), artificial insemination with the wrong donor sperm or wrong egg, and patient death or serious injury resulting from contaminated drugs. To see the full list, click here.

While most Never Events are very rare, they are devastating to patients when they do happen - 71% of Never Events reported in the last 12 years caused a patient death. There are estimated to be over 4,000 surgical Never Events in the United States per year. When Never Events happen, it can be a sign that the healthcare facility has fundamental safety problems that are putting patients at serious risk of injury or wrongful death.

Never Events are considered "sentinel events" by The Joint Commission. Sentinel events are defined as "unexpected occurrence involving death or serious physiological or psychological injury, or the risk thereof." Since 1995, The Joint Commission, an accreditation organization, has recommended that hospitals report sentinel events and requires facilities to conduct a root-cause analysis to determine whether systems failures or negligence caused or contributed to the bad medical outcome.

Because Never Events are devastating and preventable, health care organizations are under increasing pressure to eliminate them completely. If you or a loved one have experienced a Never Event, or any medical error or mistake resulting in serious injury or death, contact the attorneys at Daniel Pleasant Holoman LLP. There is no cost to speak to someone about your case, and we offer contingency arrangements if we determine the case has merit, meaning that you don't pay unless we recover.

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Daniel Pleasant Holoman LLP

Daniel Pleasant Holoman LLP
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