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"Never Events": Four Terrifying Types of Surgical Mistakes

Posted By Regan Zambri Long, PLLC || 14-Apr-2017

Despite the efforts most surgical professionals make to prevent them, serious surgical mistakes sometimes occur. The medical community refers to these types of mistakes as “never events”—events that should never happen—and yet a study by Johns Hopkins reveals that at least 4,000 of these “never events” happen every year. Let’s look at four examples.

  • Wrong-Site Surgery

Occasionally, surgeons will perform a surgical procedure on the wrong organ or wrong part of the body. This mistake usually happens due to communication errors among the staff. Wrong-site surgery amplifies the risk to the patient because a) the affected body part is now injured in a way it shouldn’t have been; and b) the body part requiring surgery still has not been properly treated once surgery is complete.

  • Wrong-Patient Surgery

If paperwork gets handled improperly (which happens frequently), a surgeon may accidentally perform a surgical procedure on the wrong patient, effectively putting two patients in serious jeopardy—one who is left untreated, and one who had an unnecessary procedure.

  • Leaving a Foreign Object Inside after Surgery

Not just the stuff of TV dramas, surgeons sometimes close up a surgical site while carelessly leaving a foreign object inside the patient (for example, sponges, clamps, towels, even sharp objects). For obvious reasons, this error can be extremely dangerous or fatal to the patient.

  • Medication Errors

Errors involving the administration of medication (whether the wrong medicine or an improper dosage) are quite common throughout the medical community. When this mistake occurs in the context of surgery when a patient is more vulnerable, improper medication can have serious or deadly consequences.

While these “never events” are comparatively rare, even one such mistake is one too many. To reduce the risk of these types of errors, be sure to check reviews of your hospital and surgeons to be sure you’re comfortable with their track record and experience, and ask them about the safeguards they have in place.

For more information, this recent post provides some powerful tools to help you research your doctor and hospital.

If you are the victim of a medical error, our Washington D.C. medical malpractice attorneys can help. Call our offices for more information.

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