Medical Malpractice Claims News: New Study Reveals Billions At The Heart Of Surgical Never Events

  • Post category:March 2013

Medical Malpractice Claims News: New Study Reveals Billions at the Heart of Surgical Never Events

A study by John Hopkins involving medical malpractice and ‘never events’ finds thousands of medical malpractice claims occur in operating rooms across the country each year. Termed ‘never events’ because medical professionals agree they should never occur, these events are at the heart of billions of dollars of medical malpractice claims.

Using twenty years of data, researchers at found more 80,000 reports of ‘never events’ and some 9,744 medical malpractice claims were filed because of these events, resulting in medical malpractice settlements and judgments that total over $1.3 billion. In those medical malpractice cases, 6.6 percent of the patients died, 32.9 percent of the patients suffered permanent injury, and 59.2 percent of the patients suffered temporary injury.

Medical Malpractice Claims ‘Never Events’

In a new study published in the journal Surgery, researchers from Johns Hopkins revealed that each year 4,044 ‘never events’ occur during surgeries across the country.

These ‘never events’ include:

  • Operating on the wrong site
  • Operating on the wrong patient
  • Performing the wrong procedures
  • Leaving foreign objects inside patients

Researchers used information from the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) to establish that:

  • surgeons operate on the wrong area of a patient’s body 20 times per week
  • surgeons leave objects like sponges and towels inside a patient 39 times each week
  • surgeons perform the wrong procedure on patients 20 times per week

Hospitals have numerous safety systems in place to prevent ‘never events’ including:

  • surgery checklists
  • counting sponges and towels and other tools before and following surgical procedures
  • using indelible ink to mark surgical sites
  • taking a pre-surgery time out allowing staff to double check records and surgical plans

What the study made obvious is that these safety measures are not foolproof and are failing at an alarming rate. Lead author of the study, Marty Makary, M.D., M.P.H., and associate professor of surgery at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine says that public reporting of ‘never events’ would “put hospitals under the gun to make things safer,” and help patients make informed decisions regarding where they want to have their surgeries conducted. It would also help patients decide which surgeons they want to perform their operations.

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