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Never events impact patients every day: Here's what to know

Never events, which are appropriately named for being events that should have never happened, are medical mistakes or errors made that should have been easily avoided. Some common never events include operating on the wrong patient, operating on the wrong part of the patient, performing the wrong operation and leaving items inside the patient following surgery.

Never events have been part of the medical negligence discussion since the term was coined in 2001 by Ken Kizer, MD. Never events fall into one of seven reportable categories including:

  • Procedural or surgical events
  • Environmental events
  • Radiological events
  • Criminal events
  • Patient protection events
  • Product or device events
  • Care management events

Among the most horrifying of these are the never events that fall under surgical events. These include:

  • Operating on the wrong body part
  • Operating on the wrong patient
  • Performing the wrong invasive procedure on a patient
  • Leaving behind a foreign object inside the patient
  • Introoperative or postoperative/postprocedural death in a Class 1 patient (based on the American Society of Anesthesiologist classes).

While people often talk about surgical never events, there are others that are quite serious, too. For example, care management events can lead to medical negligence cases. These include:

  • Patient injuries or deaths related to the unsafe administration of blood products
  • Medication errors leading to serious injury or patient death
  • Maternal death or injury during labor in a low-risk pregnancy
  • Death or serious injury of a neonate during a low-risk pregnancy and in the health care setting.

There are many things that can go wrong during any kind of medical procedure, but it's good for patients to know that there are known and recognized categories of injuries that should not take place. Identifying these never events and being able to class your injuries under one of the categories can help you file a lawsuit that is supported not only by your own evidence but by the never event classifications that have been in place since 2002.

As a patient who has been badly hurt or as a loved one of someone who has been a patient and died from negligence or never events, it's your right to look into making the hospital and its providers cover your losses and make the situation right. They should be held responsible if they commit a never event, because these are events that are easily avoidable by following standard procedures and protocols set in place over a decade ago.

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