“Never events” in medicine refer to a category of entirely preventable mistakes – the kind of mistakes that are so serious that they can kill or leave patients with permanent injuries.
The term “never event” is used to emphasize the fact that proper adherence to established safety protocols makes them extremely avoidable. When safety rules are followed, certain mistakes simply don’t happen.
What sort of medical mistakes are never events?
Exactly what might constitute a “never event” may vary according to location and circumstances, but here are some examples:
- Surgery on the wrong body part
- Surgery on the wrong patient
- The wrong surgery on the right patient or body part
- Leaving foreign objects behind in a patient’s body
- Incompatible blood transfusions
- Incompatible organ transplants
- Hospital-acquired pressure sores
- Fires and burns during surgical procedures
- Improper dosage of insulin
Of these, the four at the top of the list were most common.
What causes these kinds of medical mistakes to happen?
Every medical facility has a lot of moving parts, and every situation has its variables. However, the vast majority of these kinds of medical errors occur due to:
- Human error: Fatigue, stress and complacency can all contribute to mistakes in the hospital or operating room.
- Technology problems: The integration of advanced technology into every aspect of medical care these days does have its blessings – but it can also create new issues. Electronic health records, for example, are notorious for containing inaccurate information or being so unwieldy that providers miss important details in a patient’s records.
- Communication breakdowns: Lapses in communication between nursing shifts, departments within a hospital or during patient handoffs can easily lead to confusion and critical gaps in care
Mistakes happen, but when mistakes happen in a health care setting, they can be devastating. When a medical mistake was entirely preventable, victims and their loved ones have every reason to be angry – and every right to pursue a claim for their injuries and losses.