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What is a surgical Never Event?

A Never Event has a fairly telling name. In the medical community, it's the term that refers to things that should never happen. Often, it relates to shocking or fatal errors.

For example, a patient comes in to have a lung removed. The surgeon operates on the wrong side of the body. This is known as wrong-side surgery or wrong-site surgery, and it is a classic Never Event. Many steps are taken to prevent it, such as clearly noting the correct side in the patient's records and marking the site on the body, but it happens anyway.

This mistake could also wind up being fatal. Perhaps the patient had advanced lung cancer in the lung that was supposed to be removed, or some other potentially deadly ailment. After the functional lung is removed instead, the patient passes away. The surgeon's negligence now led directly to that person's death.

Another aspect of a Never Event is that it is preventable. Things that can't be predicted don't fall into this category. Medicine isn't a perfect science.

However, mistakes that are traced back to professional negligence are typically easily preventable. Perhaps the doctor should have carefully read the files, rather than skimming them. Perhaps there was insufficient communication from the medical team. Maybe a mistake made before the patient arrived for surgery meant the records were inaccurate. One little change and a bit more care could have prevented the mistake and kept that patient alive and well.

Have you lost a loved one to a Never Event? If so, be sure you know all of your potential rights to financial compensation.

Source: Patient Safety Network, "Never Events," accessed Jan. 19, 2018

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