An interesting article came out today in Medscape, a news service for physicians linked to WebMD. The article discussed what surgeons call “never events.” Basically, these are events that should never happen in surgery, and yet it was reported that over 4,000 of these events happen every year — that equates to over 80 “never events” each week.
What sort of event is a “never event?” Doctors often call them “check-writing events” because they are always considered medical malpractice causing injury to the patient. Every one of these “never events” involve inexcusable error by the physicians or medical providers involved.
Examples of ‘Never Events’
A classic example of a “never event” includes leaving a surgical instrument or sponge in the patient after closing the operative site. One of the first things any medical student learns on their surgical rotation is that every tool and sponge must be counted before surgery and before closing. The scrub nurse or operating room technician is responsible for counting correctly, but ultimately, this count is the physician’s responsibility.
A sponge or instrument left in a body cavity can cause any number of problems, including infection or inflammatory response. This generally involves opening the patient back up during a second surgery to retrieve the instrument.
Because operations are inherently dangerous, medical negligence in surgery is especially egregious. Of all malpractice claims, surgical errors accounted for 24.2% of all claims paid between 1986 and 2010.
In addition to foreign bodies left in the surgical site, a surprising number of surgeries are performed on the wrong side of the body. A May 2009 study found that surgery patients injured during surgery are seven times more likely to die while hospitalized than other patients. They are also more likely to be readmitted to the hospital within 3 months than other patients.
Recent cases in the news have focused upon wrong site surgeries, and despite guidelines for surgeons to mark the body part that will be operated upon, these errors still occur.
Some of the types of iatrogenic injury (injuries caused during surgery or post-surgery) include:
- Pneumothorax (collapsed lung);
- Post-operative hemorrhage;
- Post-operative respiratory failure;
- Post-operative metabolic problems (electrolytes);
- Post-operative “wound dehiscence” – wound opens after surgery;
- Accidental puncture or laceration;
- Pulmonary embolism or deep vein thrombosis (blood clot in the lungs or in the deep veins of the legs and pelvis);
- Sepsis – an inflammatory reaction as a result of an infection, sepsis can cause organ failure and death
It is extremely important to pay close attention to the events surrounding your surgery. If you have a close friend or relative, have them accompany you to the hospital and check closely with your physician after your surgery and during your recovery period. A multitude of things can go wrong in the hospital, and during your recovery you may not have the mental clarity to notice things that are out of the ordinary.
If you or any of your relatives have suffered complications either during surgery or during your recovery period, you should contact a medical malpractice attorney for an evaluation of your case. Iatrogenic injury, those injuries and illnesses that occur as a result of hospitalization for something else, can be the result of medical negligence, and can cause significant injury and even death.
If you have any questions, call the top-rated medical malpractice lawyers of Passen & Powell at 312-527-4500 for a free consultation.