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What do they mean by 'never events' in the medical field?

The term "never event" is a bit of a misnomer since these disastrous medical mistakes happen with alarming frequency. A former chief executive officer (CEO) of the National Quality Forum (NQF) coined the term back in 2001 to refer to errors that should never have occurred and which put patients at extraordinary and needless risk.

One example of this is wrong-site surgical events like a doctor removing a patient's healthy kidney instead of its withered and diseased counterpart. In the ensuing years, the definition has expanded to include seven categories comprising 29 serious reportable events:

  • Product or device
  • Surgical or procedural
  • Environmental
  • Care management
  • Patient protection
  • Criminal
  • Radiologic

Because medicine is not an exact science, there will always be a margin of error when medical professionals treat their patients. That is to be expected, especially when that treatment involves risky or delicate surgeries where an outcome can never be guaranteed.

However, there is a big difference between never events happening and doctors taking calculated risks with patients' full consent. The doctors do cost:benefit ratios to determine the best outcomes for their seriously ill patients knowing that to do nothing ensures that the patients will succumb to their diseases.

Never events indicate negligence on the part of the medical professionals who are tasked with healing their patients. If due diligence had been performed and protocols and procedures followed, the never event could have been prevented at multiple junctures.

Did a never event worsen your condition or cause a loved one's demise? If so, you should learn all that you can about your rights to seek compensation for your injuries and damages.

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