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Surgical errors known as "never events" quantified in study

When Illinois patients have to undergo surgery, they trust that those in the operating room will perform the procedure to the best of their abilities. Unfortunately, surgeries do not always go as planned, and surgical errors can result in serious harm to patients. Some of these errors should not occur for any reason and are often called "never events" by industry professionals. A recent study conducted by Johns Hopkins examined the rates of "never events," and the results may be shocking to some.

Researchers found that these types of surgical errors happen at least 4,000 times a year, though they think the number could be much higher. "Never events" include mistakes like leaving a sponge or surgical instrument inside a patient, operating on the wrong organ or site of the body, or performing the wrong surgical procedure altogether. The researchers examined medical malpractice cases in hospitals from 1990 to 2010 and estimate that 80,000 of these types of mistakes happened during that time period. 

The conclusion of the study was that these statistics could be used to springboard efforts to ensure that these types of events do not happen. The researchers point to many medical facilities that use safety procedures to count surgical implements or compulsory "timeouts" before a surgery starts, to double-check medical records and surgery plans in addition to other measures. The also stress the importance of these events being reported to proper authorities when they do take place.

Patients in Illinois and elsewhere who are victims of these types of "never events" may need further treatment that can be expensive. Some patients may even lose their lives. In either case, victims and their families may decide to file a medical malpractice claim. A successfully litigated claim could result in financial restitution that would be useful in covering any expenses related to these surgical errors.

Source:, "Johns Hopkins Malpractice Study: Surgical 'Never Events' Occur At Least 4,000 Times Per Year", , Oct. 10, 2014

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