Patients trust their lives with trained medical professionals, expecting that health providers will exercise due care in the execution of medical tasks and surgical procedures. Nevertheless, medical negligence occurs all of the time, and unfortunately, some of these errors are completely preventable.

Surgical “never events” are being used increasingly as a measure of quality in the United States health care system. Such events are classified as serious mistakes that could have been avoided. A never event could include operating on the wrong patient, performing the wrong surgery or leaving a surgical tool inside the body cavity of a patient.

According to the Atlantic Wire, comprehensive research suggests that the number of real never events has been underreported for the last 20 years. To supplement research, a study was recently conducted to describe the number and magnitude of malpractice claims for surgical never events.

The study was published in the January issue of Surgery and authored by a group of researchers from Johns Hopkins University. Researchers analyzed 9,744 paid malpractice settlements and judgments for surgical never events occurring between 1990 and 2010. The study compiled information from the National Practitioner Data Bank, a federal database of medical malpractice claims. Payment amounts, patient outcomes and provider characteristics were examined in the investigation.

Results of the study

The analysis concluded that medical malpractice payments for surgical never events totaled $1.3 billion during the studied period. Increased payments were associated with severe patient outcomes. Furthermore, greater damages were awarded to victims of physicians with multiple malpractice reports.

Tragically, death was common in 6.6 percent of never event patients. Permanent injury and temporary injury occurred 39.9 and 59.2 percent of the time, respectively. Based on the findings, researchers estimate that 4,082 surgical never event claims occur in the country each year.

When a health care provider significantly departs from acceptable standards of medical care, never events occur. The findings of the study ultimately suggest that surgical never events are costly to the health care system and bring about serious harm to patients.

People in every profession make mistakes, but much more is at stake for patients on the operating table. Whatever precautions that are in place to stop preventable errors are not doing the job. Hopefully, health care facilities will take the time reevaluate effective standards of medical practice.

However, if you have been already been harmed by a health care provider, you should contact a skilled medical malpractice attorney. A lawyer can help you assess your situation.

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