What Is a Never Event in Healthcare?

Hospitals and doctors owe a duty of care to their patients to prevent injuries. While accidents that cause patient harm happen occasionally, never events are those that should never occur. A never event in healthcare is caused by egregious medical mistakes that are completely preventable. So, what is a never event in healthcare?

Never Events in Illinois

When you suffer a serious illness or injury, you may end up in a Chicago urgent care facility or local hospital for emergency medical care. Depending on the type and severity of your illness or injury, emergency treatment or surgery may be necessary to stabilize your condition and prevent medical complications that may result in irreversible damage or even death.

Hospitals and doctors have a duty of care to protect patient safety. When a medical emergency situation arises, medical professionals must use caution to avoid patient health complications and the possibility of severe patient injury or even patient death. While serious medical conditions and patient emergencies are not uncommon, the hectic environment and rushed procedures can lead to never events, errors in medical care that are clearly identifiable, completely preventable, and serious enough to result in permanent damage or death for the patient.

What Is a Never Event in Healthcare?

Never events in healthcare are defined as an event for which there is universal professional agreement that should never happen during surgery. A never event is preventable and usually caused by egregious medical errors that have serious health consequences for the patient. Common never event examples include the following:

·         Surgical Errors – The wrong surgery is performed, or the surgery is performed on the wrong patient or the wrong body part. During surgical procedures, a medical device, surgical implement, or retained surgical sponges are left inside the patient.

  • Contamination – The surgical procedure is performed with an unsterilized implement, the wrong type of mesh or gauze, or a contaminated medical device. The patient may be given the wrong sedative or incorrect drugs before, during, and after surgery.
  • Patient Care – Patients are given improper patient care following surgery due to errors in the patient’s chart, errors in medications and doses, and lack of follow-up care by doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers.
  • Patient Protection – Never events also involve the patient’s well-being after treatment or surgery. Lack of patient protection includes patient disappearance from a hospital or clinic, improper discharge, and attempted suicide or suicide death in a healthcare setting.

·         Environmental Factors – Environmental events include burn injuries from electrical shock, oxygen lines containing no gas or the wrong gas, and the use of bed restraints used on patients during surgery, during recovery, or in a hospital room.

  • Radiological Factors – Radiological events occur when patients are undergoing testing procedures and are exposed to high levels of radiation or drugs. Testing may include X-rays, MRIs, or other tests that require dyes injected into the patient’s body.

How Often Do Never Events Happen?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), never events are responsible for approximately 99,000 patient deaths each year in the United States. It’s estimated that over 4,000 cases of never-event surgical errors alone happen in the United States each year, with more than 70% of them resulting in fatalities.

Medical records show there are 1.7 million infections each year that are acquired by patients in hospitals and other healthcare settings. The most prevalent infection occurs in the urinary tract (32%), followed by surgical site infections (22%), bloodstream infections (15%), and respiratory infections and pneumonia (22%).

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University note that never events are much more common than people realize. According to research, implements and surgical sponges left in patients after surgery occur on average about 39 times every week. Wrong procedures performed on patients and surgical procedures performed on the wrong body part both occur about 20 times every week. Research also shows that patients between the ages of 40 to 49 have the highest risk factors of never events. Case facts show that most surgical mistakes are often made by surgeons who have a track record of failure. In fact, 62% of surgeons cited in the Johns Hopkins research study were cited in more than one malpractice report.

Steps to Prove Liability for Never Events

Although never events are completely preventable, they are surprisingly common in healthcare. If you have been harmed by a never event, you have legal rights to file a medical malpractice lawsuit and collect compensation for your injuries. In Illinois, a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer can help you get the compensation you deserve for serious injuries, disabilities, pain and suffering, and emotional distress caused by the never event that caused you harm.

To prove liability for never events in Illinois, you must establish that you have a patient/doctor relationship at the time that the never event injury occurred. You may have been admitted to a hospital where you were treated by your doctor or other doctors and specialists, as well as nurses, and caregivers. You must also prove that the hospital, your doctor or doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers who treated you breached the standard of care and caused you harm. Within the healthcare industry, the standard of care is an accepted set of practices that other medical professionals in the same field would use when treating a similar patient under similar circumstances. A similar patient is someone with the same or nearly the same age, medical history, and particular symptoms.

If you suffer harm from a never event, you must take steps to prove liability and obtain fair compensation for your injuries. While it may be difficult to take action when you are recovering from severe injuries, it’s important to take swift action because delaying legal actions may hurt your medical malpractice case. In Illinois, you have two years from the date you know or should have known about your injury to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. Generally, patients may not bring a lawsuit more than four years after the medical malpractice occurs, except for cases involving minors and people with disabilities.

Types of Compensation for Never Event Injuries

If you have documented proof that you were harmed by a never event, you can file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the hospital, clinic, or medical professional that’s responsible for the harm that was caused to you. There is never an excuse for a medical provider to make such an egregious error. You have the legal right to collect compensation for your never event injuries which may result in long-term or permanent medical care for disabilities, as well as the need for ongoing physical therapy and rehabilitation, psychological therapy, mobility aids, and live-in nurses or caregivers.

Never events are considered common and deadly types of medical malpractice that should never occur. When they do occur, they often result in permanent injuries or death for the patient. Because of the egregious medical conduct by the responsible party and the severe nature of injuries to the patient, this type of medical malpractice lawsuit has large payouts to patients.

When a medical malpractice lawsuit is successful, damages generally include both economic and non-economic damages for the injury victim:

  • Economic Damages – These damages are paid for tangible injuries suffered due to medical malpractice. Compensation includes payments for the patient’s medical expenses, as well as financial losses due to lost wages or job loss. If the patient suffers a disability, it may also include expenses for mobility and transportation equipment and home-based healthcare.
  • Non-Economic Damages – These damages are paid for intangible injuries that can not be measured or calculated in monetary value. Compensation includes payments for the patient’s physical and mental pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of companionship, and loss of enjoyment of normal life activities.

Punitive Damages in a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

In some medical malpractice cases, injury victims are awarded punitive damages, which are not part of the economic or non-economic damages awarded. In cases that involve egregious medical negligence on the part of a hospital or medical professional, punitive damages are often awarded to the injury victim. Punitive damages are awarded for the sole reason of punishing the party who committed the egregious action and caused harm to the patient. In Illinois, however, patients are prohibited from recovering punitive damages against an at-fault healthcare provider.

Medical malpractice cases in Illinois can be complex because documented proof is required by the court to move forward with the lawsuit. For this reason, it’s important to work with a knowledgeable Chicago medical malpractice lawyer who understands what is required during the civil court process in Illinois.

Medical malpractice cases are often lengthy. They can last for several months or even several years because the court must obtain and review the injured patient’s medical records, documented evidence, and witness testimonies to show proof that medical malpractice actually occurred. A reputable medical malpractice lawyer is key to a successful outcome.

Chicago personal injury and workers’ compensation attorney Howard Ankin has a passion for justice and a relentless commitment to defending injured victims throughout the Chicagoland area. With decades of experience achieving justice on behalf of the people of Chicago, Howard has earned a reputation as a proven leader in and out of the courtroom. Respected by peers and clients alike, Howard’s multifaceted approach to the law and empathetic nature have secured him a spot as an influential figure in the Illinois legal system.

Years of Experience: More than 30 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: Illinois State Bar Association, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, U.S. District Court, Central District of Illinois
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