Never say never: Surgical errors that should never happen, do

On Behalf of | Jun 19, 2017 | Blog |

When you go in for surgery, you have no choice but to trust in the training and professional experience of the surgeon. Even in a best-case scenario when everything goes properly, there is still always a chance for infection or a slow recovery.

Sometimes, complications are not preventable. But what about the ones that are? What about the things that happen during surgery that should never occur, but do anyway?

“Never events”

A mistake during surgery that medical professionals universally agree should never happen is called a “never event.” These incidents include any surgical error that is totally preventable. However, despite the fact that these events should never happen, researchers estimate that every week, surgeons do the following:

  • Leave a foreign object inside patients’ bodies 39 times
  • Perform the wrong procedure on patients 20 times
  • Operate on the wrong body sites 20 times

Frighteningly, these researchers found that at least 80,000 such never events occurred in the 20-year study period between 1990 and 2010, resulting in:

  • Death 6.6 percent of the time
  • Permanent injury 32.9 percent of the time
  • Temporary injury 59.2 percent of the time

Researchers also believe that, on average, these surgical errors still occur 4,044 times every year, and that’s a low estimate!

Am I at risk?

While any patient could potentially suffer one of these never events at the hand of an improperly trained or unskilled surgeon, the study determined that:

  • Never events occur most often in patients aged 40-49
  • Surgeons aged 40-49 were the age group responsible for over a third of these types of errors
  • Surgeons over the age of 60 were responsible for 14.4 percent of these types of errors

Of the surgeons who made these mistakes during surgery, 62 percent were named in more than one other report of medical malpractice, and over 12 percent were cited in other never events during surgery.

Are never events avoidable?

Many medical centers already have safety procedures in place to prevent these types of errors. These procedures include things like obligatory timeouts immediately before surgery begins for operating staff to double-check surgical plans and medical records. Another suggestion is for staff to use indelible ink to mark the surgical site before they anesthetize the patient. Additionally, while the system isn’t foolproof, attending operating staff should always count surgical items, towels and sponges both before and after surgery.

Experts also feel that better reporting systems to track such errors may help increase safety efforts and accountability. If this information were publicized and easily available, not only might hospitals and surgeons be more responsible, but prospective patients could make a more informed decision about where they wished to undergo their surgeries.

What to do when “Never” happened to you

If you or someone you love suffered an injury due to a surgical error, you are likely feeling scared and confused. You may now find yourself suffering additional pain, a different or worsened medical condition than before you underwent surgery, or possibly even struggling with life-threatening injuries or risk of death. You may also be facing further medical expenses as a direct result of someone else’s negligence or mistakes.

A New York attorney with experience in medical malpractice will be familiar with all of the confusing and overwhelming details involved in various types of surgical error cases. A lawyer in the Staten Island area will be able to quickly and carefully investigate your situation and provide invaluable guidance as to how to proceed in your fight for justice and possible compensation.

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