Boohoff Law P.A.

Understanding Never Events

In March 2019, a woman sued Vanderbilt University Medical Center for $25 million dollars after a doctor allegedly operated on the wrong kidney, damaging her urinary system and requiring her to undergo dialysis for the rest of her life. This patient was the victim of a never event.

Unless you work in healthcare, it’s unlikely that you’ve heard the term never event. These egregious occurrences typically result in permanent disability or death. Never events are avoidable and constitute medical malpractice. Fortunately never events are rare, but they happen far too often. Understanding never events might help you avoid one of these devastating injuries.

If you or a loved one has suffered a severe injury or died during medical diagnosis, treatment, or aftercare, you need to seek the counsel of a medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. Contact Boohoff Law at (877) 999-9999 for a free consultation to discuss your case. Below you can learn more about never events.

What Is a Never Event?

In 2001, the former CEO of the National Quality Forum (NQF), Dr. Ken Kizer, introduced the concept of a never event. These events refer to shocking medical errors that should never occur, like the previous Vanderbilt example. As years have gone on, medical professionals and administrators have expanded the definition to include severe adverse events that are usually preventable and result in disability or death. Currently, the never event list includes 29 “serious reportable events” divided into seven categories.

  • Surgical or procedural events include surgeries or procedures on the wrong person and the wrong body part, as well as performing the wrong surgery or procedure on a patient. Leaving foreign objects in one’s body and fatality due to improper anesthesia are also included in this group of never events.
  • Product or device events include death or injury as a result of contaminated drugs or devices provided in a healthcare setting, as well as injury or death associated with the improper use of a device in patient care. Intravascular air embolisms caused in a health care setting are also never events.
  • Patient protection events refer to instances when a medical facility discharges or releases a patient or resident to an unauthorized person, and death or injury related to that release or disappearance. Medical professionals have a duty to protect patients and residents; never events also include a patient who attempts suicide, commits suicide, or commits any other type of self-harm.
  • Care management events are the most plentiful of all never events. Several types of events fall under the umbrella of care management, including death or injury related to medication error or unsafe administration of blood products. Death or injury to the mother or baby during labor and delivery of a low-risk pregnancy and artificial insemination using the wrong sperm or egg are also never events. Death or injuries resulting from a fall, bed sores, and loss of biological specimens while being cared for in a health care facility constitute further care management never events. Finally, death or injury resulting from the failure to provide test results, whether from the laboratory, pathology, or radiology.
  • Environmental events include death or disability as a result of electric shock, a mix up in oxygen or gas lines, and the toxic contamination of gas or oxygen lines. An environmental never event also might result from a burn during patient care or improper use of restraints or bed rails that lead to disability or death.
  • Radiologic events are extremely rare, but can occur when injury or a fatality occurs after some sort of metal object has been brought into the MRI area.
  • Criminal events might be the most egregious of all never events because they often include an intent to harm or outright neglect. Any time someone impersonates a medical professional, abducts a patient or resident, or abuses a patient or resident, a crime has occurred in addition to a never event. Physical assault and battery in a healthcare setting is also a never event when it results in a significant injury or death.

How Often Do Never Events Occur?

Very little research has focused on never events broadly, and only some groups of events have received special attention. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, reports that most never events are extremely rare. The few studies that address never events focus on surgical errors. A 2006 study estimates that the average hospital might perform a wrong-site surgery every five to ten years, and a later 2013 study reveals more than 4,000 surgical never events occur each year in the United States. Although the likelihood of experiencing a never event is low, when they do occur, more than 70 percent result in death, suggesting a severe failure in safety practices at the medical facility where the event occurred.

Hire Our Skilled Medical Malpractice Attorneys After Experiencing a Never Event

Some never events immediately cause severe injury or death, in other cases a victim might not discover their injury for some time. This is especially common when a foreign object gets left inside of a patient’s body or when artificial insemination goes wrong.

Under Washington law, you must take legal action within three years of the date of injury, or within one year of discovering your injury, whichever is longer. Although some exceptions exist, any malpractice claim must be made within eight years from the date of injury under Washington’s statute of repose for medical malpractice cases. Your attorney will advise you of any exceptions that might apply to your case.

If you or a loved one has suffered a severe injury or died as a result of a never event, no amount of money can undo the damage. Yet, seeking compensation for damages can help alleviate some or all of the financial burden which often accompanies severe injury. If you live in the Seattle area, contact the experienced medical malpractice lawyers at Boohoff Law online or call at (877) 999-9999 to schedule a free consultation to discuss how we can assist you.