Malpractice occurs when a medical professional violates a standard of care. In most cases defining that standard and comparing it against the action of the defendant represents the most contested aspects of the case. But there are some circumstances when there is truly no dispute that the standards were violated. In the medical community these errors are often referred to as œnever events. They represent situations that are so egregious there is simply no excuse for their ever occurring. However, new research suggests that far from being incredibly rare occurrences, many of these never events occur dozens of times a week and thousands of times a year. More than 4,000 preventable mistakes happen during surgery each year, costing us more than $ 1.3 billion in malpractice payouts, according the latest study coming out of Johns Hopkins and published in the online journal Surgery.
Common examples of surgical errors and medical negligence include:
- Performing unnecessary or experimental surgeries
- Wrong site surgeries
- Lack of post-surgical care resulting in infection
- Incorrect spinal procedures causing paralysis
- Anesthesia errors
- Surgical errors causing nerve damage
- Surgical errors causing death
- Failure to remove a surgical sponge or foreign object after surgery
The report, as published identifies an average of 4,044 surgical errors arising from never events across the nation each year. Never events include operating in the wrong area or on the wrong patient, as well as cases of surgical equipment left inside a patient after the operation concludes. Specifically the patient safety advocates found that roughly every week about 40 objects (like surgical towels) are left inside patients after operations. About 20 times a week a procedure is performed on the wrong part of the body and about the same number of times doctors perform the wrong procedure on a patient. All told this amounts of a significant number of patients who are forced to deal with the consequences of the fundamental error.
“There are mistakes in health care that are not preventable. Infection rates will likely never get down to zero even if everyone does everything right, for example,” says study leader Marty Makary, M.D., M.P.H., an associate professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “But the events we’ve estimated are totally preventable. This study highlights that we are nowhere near where we should be and there’s a lot of work to be done.”
Many of the surgeons who cause these never events to occur have been cited for previous incidents in the past. In fact, 12.4 percent of surgeons who have been cited for a never event have been cited more than once.
That is one of the many reasons why it is important to bring medical malpractice lawsuits against negligent medical professionals. We need to hold doctors accountable in order to prevent future medical errors from occurring. Surgery is a frightening experience, but we should not have to worry that our doctors will leave an object in our body, operate on the wrong body part or perform the wrong procedure.
If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of a surgical error, contact the experienced medical malpractice attorneys at Edwards & Ragatz, P.A.
WebMD, “Thousands of Mistakes Made in Surgery Every Year,” Jennifer Warner, Dec. 26, 2012