Recently in another state, a hospital admitted a patient received a kidney meant for someone else. The hospital released a statement apologizing for the medical error and said two employees were placed on leave. The only good news is that while the kidney was given to the wrong patient, it is compatible with that person, who is expected to recover. Meanwhile, the surgery for the intended patient has been delayed. NPR reports the hospital is reviewing what went wrong and how to prevent similar mistakes.
Such incidents are what are referred to by healthcare professionals and medical malpractice lawyers as “never events.” These are errors in medical care that are:
- Clearly identifiable.
- Serious in their consequences for patients.
- Indicate a real problem in the safety and credibility of a health care facility.
These can include wrong side, wrong site, wrong procedure, wrong patient. Simply put, they are things that should never happen. When they do, patients adversely affected are rightly entitled to some form of compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, loss of life enjoyment, loss of consortium (spouse) and wrongful death.
Some examples of “never events” would be surgery on the wrong body part, a mismatched blood transfusion, an incorrect procedure, procedure intended for another patient, a severe pressure ulcer acquired in a hospital, foreign objects left in the body of a patient after surgery or preventable post-operative deaths.
Never events are relatively rare in medicine, with one study estimating they occur in 1 out of every 112,000 surgical procedures. However, that analysis only looked at errors in the operating room. If procedures are involved in other settings (interventional radiology, ambulatory surgery, etc.), the rate of errors is a lot higher. A study that looked at data from Veterans Affairs found that half of the “never events” happened during procedures that took place outside the operating room.
The primary cause of these events appears to be lack of communication. Lots of places have begun practicing surgical timeouts, planned pauses at the start of a surgery to review important aspects of it with all involved personnel and improving communication in the operating room to prevent never-events. This practice isn’t necessarily limited to surgical procedures but any invasive procedure. Surgical safety checklists and other postoperative safety guidelines can also help. It’s usually not one single thing that leads to these issues, but often a communication issue that sets off a chain of events.
In terms of litigation, so-called never-events are often settled quickly. That’s because, as our Palm Beach medical malpractice lawyers can explain, the question of liability, or fault, for what happened is fairly straightforward. The question in medical malpractice cases is whether the physician or other health care provider breached the applicable standard of care. In a never-event, it’s often fairly clear that they did. If the case is litigated, it’s usually a question of damages, or how much the at-fault parties should pay to compensate the victim(s) for this negligence.
Determining and building a case for full and fair damages requires a legal team with extensive experience in handling Florida medical malpractice claims.
Contact the South Florida personal injury attorneys at Halberg & Fogg PLLC by calling toll-free at 1-877-425-2374. Serving West Palm Beach, Miami, Tampa, Orlando and Fort Myers/ Naples. There is no fee unless you win.
Wrong-Site, Wrong-Procedure, and Wrong-Patient Surgery, September 2019, Patient Safety Network, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
More Blog Entries:
Florida Medical Malpractice Claim Requirements Can be Impacted by a Defendant’s Federal Status, March 15, 2021, Palm Beach Medical Malpractice Lawyer Blog