view our practice areasview our Practice Areas

'Never Events' Not So Never After All, Study Says

It goes without saying that surgery is not a fun experience. One of the scariest aspects of surgery is that it requires the patient to put their entire trust in the surgeon to conduct a smooth and error-free operation. However, a recent study confirms that this trust is often misplaced.

The study, which was recently published in the journal Surgery, found that types of egregious surgical errors called "never events" occur more often than you might believe. Examples of never events are:

  • Operating on the wrong body part
  • Operating on the wrong patient
  • Leaving tools or surgical equipment behind in the patient
  • Treating the patient with the incorrect surgical procedure

To collect data for the study, researchers analyzed medical malpractice claims filed between 2004 and 2010. The data showed that never events happen about 42 times per month or 500 times per year. Half of the never events consisted of leaving a surgical instrument behind — most often a surgical sponge.

In most of the other half of never events, surgeons operated on the wrong body part or performed the wrong procedure. Shockingly, in 17 of the 500 never events committed each year, the surgeon operated on the wrong patient.

As you can imagine, these errors often had severe consequences. About 59 percent of patients who were victims of never events were left with temporary injuries, and 33 percent with permanent serious injuries. Sadly, about 6.6 percent of patients — most having had the wrong procedure performed on them — paid the ultimate price due to these flagrant errors.

The study also profiled the types of doctors who were most likely to commit never events. From the malpractice data, the study found that younger and inexperienced doctors committed a higher rate of never events. Additionally, it was found that history repeats itself: Doctors who had been previously sued for malpractice were significantly more likely to commit serious medical errors in the future.

Florida Law And Never events

Under Florida law, surgeons must provide their patients care that meets a certain generally accepted standard. If expert testimony — testimony by other surgeons — proves that the surgeon's care did not meet this standard, the surgeon is considered to be negligent and is responsible for the damages he or she causes. If a surgeon commits a never event, it is very likely that he or she will be found to be negligent.

Florida victims of surgical negligence are entitled to recover compensation for expenses such as pain and suffering, medical bills, lost wages and future medical expenses. If you or a loved one has been injured by a negligent surgeon, contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney in your area. An attorney can advise you on your right to compensation and work to hold the responsible party accountable for his or her actions.