Unless they work in the medical field, most Virginians have never heard the phrase “never event.” In a healthcare hospital setting, a never event is exactly what it sounds like; an event that should never happen. Catastrophic unintended incidents that take place during medical treatments, surgeries, and procedures often leave the patient permanently disabled, injured, or lead to death. The phrase “never event” was first used in 2001 by Dr. Ken Kizer to refer to particularly egregious medical errors and mistakes, like operations performed on the wrong part of the body. Is a never event medical malpractice? Almost always, the answer is yes. According to the Patient Safety Network, over the decades, the use of the term has grown to embody any unambiguous adverse event that is both serious and preventable. If you or someone you love was injured due to a never event, contact the experienced Virginia Beach medical malpractice attorneys at Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp to schedule a free confidential case evaluation as soon as possible.
What is Classified as a Never Event?
Since the term was first coined, the definition of a never event, also known as a serious reportable event, is a subset of medical malpractice that has extended into seven different categories.
Procedural and Surgical Events
Procedural and surgical never events happen when surgeries are performed on the wrong patient or the wrong body part. Surgical never events also include “retained objects” which are objects left inside the patient after surgery and healthy patients passing away during, or immediately following, an operation. Examples are surgery clothes or sponges that are not removed, or when part of a surgical instrument breaks off and is left in the patient’s body.
Device and Product Events
These events take place when a product or device utilized in a patient’s medical care is used improperly, defective, or contaminated, resulting in serious injury or death. These days there are hundreds of medical devices used in patient surgeries and parts must not be broken or misplaced.
Patient Protection Events
Events involving patient protection happen when a patient who is not capable of making decisions is released or discharged to an unauthorized person. Patient protection events also include personal injuries or deaths that happen during an elopement (disappearance), or if a patient succeeds in or attempts to commit suicide while under a medical facility’s care due to failures of the facility to follow known protective practices.
Care Management Events
This includes everything from the loss of a newborn and maternal deaths to medication errors. They also involve the serious injury or death of a patient caused by failing to communicate or follow up on radiology, pathology, or laboratory test results. When those testing results fail to be communicated properly to the attending or responsible doctor, catastrophic circumstances can and do occur.
These involve the disability or death of staff members or patients associated with exposure to toxic chemicals, burn injury, electric shock, or the use of restraints at a medical facility.
Radiologic events include the severe injury or death of a staff member or patient caused by the introduction of a metal object into the magnetic resonance imaging area.
Criminal never events involve the care provided or ordered by anyone impersonating a physician, medic, nurse, or other licensed medical professional if a patient is sexually assaulted on, or abducted from the premises of a medical facility, or when a serious injury or death occurs due to the assault or criminal acts.
Although this list of potential events is quite extensive, never events are considered rare with slightly more than 4,000 taking place in the United States every year. Among those that do occur, however, the death and permanent injury rate is a catastrophic 71%.
What Causes Never Events?
Despite the medical community’s collective efforts to eradicate never events, they continue to persist. One reason for this is likely related to the low frequency with which they occur, which may result in healthcare professionals being less than vigilant. One recent study by NORCAL Group shows that, in the case of surgical never events, many happened due to a lack of compliance with established safety protocols. For instance, the established checklists were not used, safety protocols or surgical sponge counts were not followed, timeouts did not occur, or tasks were completed with inaccurate information. In many cases, statements that were clearly incorrect were made during perioperative briefings and time outs and either no one on the surgical team noticed or they didn’t feel compelled to say anything. In these ways and many others, failure to effectively communicate throughout the perioperative period is another likely contributor to surgical never events. Surgeons, for example, can communicate their dedication to a patient’s well-being by leading by example and following all safety protocols.
Were You the Victim of a Never Event?
If you were harmed due to a never event, you could have grounds for a Virginia medical malpractice claim. When you seek medical attention, multiple healthcare professionals are often involved in the treatment, any or all of whom could be held liable if you experience a preventable and catastrophic injury or if a family member dies as a result.
The Virginia Beach medical malpractice attorneys at Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp have been helping those injured due to negligence seek justice since 1985. If your injury was caused by a never event or any other form of medical malpractice, we can conduct an investigation, identify all liable parties, and fight to secure full and fair financial compensation for your damages. Our knowledge of medical malpractice law and dedication to our client’s best interests are how we were able to obtain a $2.23 million wrongful death/medical malpractice jury verdict for the family of a woman who passed away due to a delayed diagnosis of hospital sepsis. If you would like to speak with one of our experienced Virginia Beach medical malpractice attorneys, you can schedule a free consultation by calling (833) 997-1774 or by filling out our easy online contact form. Our offices are located in Virginia Beach, Portsmouth, Hampton, Norfolk, and Chesapeake.
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Rick Shapiro has practiced personal injury law for over 30 years in Virginia, North Carolina, and throughout the Southeastern United States. He is a Board-Certified Civil Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy (ABA Accredited) and has litigated injury cases throughout the eastern United States, including wrongful death, trucking, faulty products, railroad, and medical negligence claims. During his three-decade career, Shapiro has won client appeals before the VA Supreme Court, VA Court of Appeals, NC Supreme Court, SC Supreme Court, WV Supreme Court, TN Supreme Court, and three times before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, underscoring Shapiro’s trial achievements. In addition, he and his law firm have won settlements/verdicts in excess of $100 million. His success in and out of the courtroom is a big reason why he was named 2019 “Lawyer of the Year” in railroad law in U.S. News & World Report's Best Lawyers publication (Norfolk, VA area), and he has been named a “Best Lawyer” and “Super Lawyer” by those peer-reviewed organizations for multiple years. Rick was also named a “Leader in the Law, Class of 2022” by Virginia Lawyers Weekly (total of 33 statewide honorees consisting of lawyers and judges across Virginia). And in September 2023, Rick was selected as a recipient of the National Board of Trial Advocacy (NBTA) 2023 President’s Award. Although many nominations were submitted from across the country, Rick was just one of eight attorneys chosen by the prestigious National Board which certifies civil trial attorneys across the U.S. Rick was also recently named to Virginia Lawyers Weekly 2024 Virginia’s Go To Lawyers Medical Malpractice. The attorneys awarded this honor are nominated by their colleagues and chosen by a panel from the publication.