Never Events and Surgical Malpractice: Know Your Rights

October 3, 2017 | Crandall & Pera Law
Never Events and Surgical Malpractice: Know Your Rights

There are some acts of medical negligence so egregious, so catastrophic, that there is no way to excuse them. We call these “never events,” because they are never supposed to happen. The term was invented by the National Quality Forum, a non-profit organization dedicated to patient safety and promoting quality healthcare.

The NQF has a detailed list of never events, but there are five in the area of Surgical Events:

  • “Surgery performed on the wrong body part

  • Surgery performed on the wrong patient

  • Wrong surgical procedure on a patient

  • Retention of a foreign object in a patient after surgery or other procedure

  • Intraoperative or immediately post-operative death in a normal health patient (defined as a Class 1 patient for purposes of the American Society of Anesthesiologists patient safety initiative)”

Despite the name, these types of errors do occur more often than they should. Between 1990 and 2010, there were “9,744 paid malpractice settlement and judgments for surgical never events,” according to one piece in the journal Surgery. Out of those events, “Mortality occurred in 6.6% of patients, permanent injury in 32.9%, and temporary injury in 59.2%.” The researchers estimate that just over 4,000 surgical never events occur in U.S. hospitals each year. You can read the full article here.

This information was gathered from data in the National Practitioner Data Bank, which collects information on medical malpractice payments and actions taken by licensing boards and facilities against medical personnel. However, not all adverse actions will end up being reported to the NPDB, which means the number of those actions will likely be higher than reported.

Surgical never events happen in Ohio hospitals, too

It can be easy to look at national statistics and assume they’re happening “elsewhere,” but Ohio hospitals and medical facilities have their fair share of never events as well. (You can see the Leapfrog Group’s full list of never event reporting here.)

For example: in June of 2009, Kelly Maron underwent surgery to treat colon cancer. She was treated by Dr. Timothy Pritchard at a Lake Health Systems facility. In November of 2009, Kelly underwent another surgery because a surgical towel was left inside her upper abdomen during the first procedure. Kelly sought the counsel of Crandall & Pera Law’s Steve Crandall, and in 2011 filed a lawsuit against Pritchard and Lake Health. A jury found Dr. Pritchard and Lake Health Systems equally negligent in Kelly’s case, and awarded her $910,000 in damages; it was believed to be the largest verdict ever rendered in Lake County.

Surgical malpractice of any kind is terrible, but circumstances like the ones Kelly Maron underwent are especially tragic. They are also entirely preventable. When a doctor or hospital fails to uphold its duty to do no harm, you may be entitled to compensation for your lost wages, your pain and suffering, your medical bills, and more.

At Crandall & Pera Law, we fight on behalf of patients who have sustained serious, even life-altering injuries as a result of medical negligence. If you or your loved one were the victim of a never event, we want to help. To speak with an experienced Ohio medical malpractice lawyer, please call 877-686-8879. To work with a medical negligence attorney in Kentucky, please call 877-686-8879. You can also fill out our contact form to learn more.