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Never Events, Medical Malpractice That Can Happen

The journal Surgery has just released the results of its findings around surgical “never events” (that is, things that are never supposed to happen).  Over 4,000 of these events occur annually in the United States; Surgery’s malpractice study is the first review of “totally preventable” malpractice mistakes.

To break this statistic down further: somewhere in the U.S., a surgeon is leaving a foreign object inside a surgical patient’s body thirty-nine times a week.  Twenty times a week, a surgeon performs the wrong procedure, and another twenty times weekly a surgeon performs surgery at the wrong site on the patient’s body.

In another study, conducted by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, researchers discovered 80,000 never events occurred from 1990 to 2010; 9,744 of these led to paid malpractice judgments, with claims totaling $1.3 billion.  Not surprisingly, the study (which examined information from the National Practitioner Data Bank, or NPDB) found that the more serious the outcome of malpractice performed, the more money paid to the patient or family.   Federal law requires hospitals to report never events that culminate in malpractice judgments or in settlements out of court.

But, the NPDB has seen yearly rates of reported never events decline, and not because hospitals are making fewer error.  Instead, the hospitals remove doctors as defendants from settlement cases; this removal allows hospitals to not report the mistakes to the state.  The leader of the Johns Hopkins study, Marty Makary (an associate professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine), has called for greater public reporting of never events, to “put hospitals under the gun to make things safer.”

The study also called for greater malpractice preventative measures—mandatory time-outs in operating rooms, marking the place on the body scheduled for surgery with permanent ink, using electronic bar codes to keep track of instruments.  Time outs (where doctors, nurses, and everyone involved in the surgery stop, evaluate the situation, and voice any concerns) are gradually gaining popularity in hospitals; it’s a practice that has been documented as repeatedly preventing potential disasters, particularly in the high-stress environment of the OR.

Another way to increase patient safety and the quality of care is for facilities to stay informed of current Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services regulations; this would ensure 100 percent compliance with minimum care standards.  A surveillance plan to monitor areas where things could go wrong in the hospital is another possibility for improving the overall quality of care provided.  Whether or not these practices actually come to pass, it’s still wise to be a strong advocate for yourself and your loved ones in the hospital, and to promptly seek legal counsel should anything go wrong.

If you or someone you care for has suffered an injury as a result of negligence, you have options.  Contact Mike Agruss Law, at 312-224-4695 for a free consultation.  We are a Chicago injury law firm representing individuals and families who have suffered an injury or loss due to an accident.  Agruss Law Firm, LLC, will handle your personal injury case quickly, will advise you every step of the way, and will not hesitate to go to trial for you.  Lastly, Mike Agruss Law, does not get paid attorney’s fees unless we win your case.  Our no-fee promise is that simple.  Therefore, you have nothing to risk when you hire us–just the opportunity to seek justice.

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