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Are never events glaring signs of medical malpractice?

On Behalf of | May 5, 2024 | Medical Malpractice |

Imagine going into surgery for a routine procedure, only to wake up and discover that your care team has operated on the wrong body part. Or perhaps entrusting a hospital with the care of a newborn, but they discharge the baby to the wrong family.

These are horrifying scenarios, and they fall under the umbrella of never events – medical mistakes so unacceptable that they are considered entirely preventable. Does that mean that a never event automatically qualifies as medical malpractice?

Defining never events and medical malpractice

A never event is a serious, largely preventable medical error. The National Quality Forum outlines 29 such events, encompassing surgical mistakes (operating on the wrong site, wrong patient or wrong procedure), medication errors (wrong dose, wrong medication or allergy oversight) and healthcare delivery issues (air embolism, patient abduction and wrong blood type transfusion). Conversely, medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare practitioner strays from the agreed-upon standard of care, resulting in patient harm.

The link between never events and malpractice

The very nature of a never event suggests a significant deviation from the standard of care. These mistakes often involve a breakdown in communication, safety protocols or proper training. For instance, wrong-site surgery might indicate a failure to follow the “time-out” procedure, where all team members verify the correct patient and body part before incision.

This deviation from the standard often leads to patient harm. Never events can cause serious injury, permanent disability and even death. Given these factors, a never event can strongly indicate potential medical malpractice.

Never events are a stark reminder of the importance of patient safety. While these events don’t automatically equate to medical malpractice, they are a strong sign that a deviation from the standard of care has occurred, potentially causing harm. Patients who’ve been affected by a never event can benefit from seeking legal counsel to determine if they have a medical malpractice case and pursue the compensation they deserve accordingly.