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What is a Never Event?

A “never event” describes a situation that should never happen in the medical field. Our Woodstock medical malpractice lawyer explains common never events, how they occur, and when you can take legal action.

What Does “Never Event” Mean?

According to the National Quality Forum (NQF), “never events” (also known as Serious Reportable Events) are errors in medical care that are “clearly identifiable, preventable, and serious in their consequences for patients, and that indicate a real problem in the safety and credibility of a health care facility.” Never events often occur in the form of surgical errors, the use of defective products or medication, and patient death or injury associated with substandard care.

Though called never events, such occurrences do happen—albeit rarely. The exact number of preventable errors that lead to patient injury and death is difficult to estimate because current measures for gauging the causes of preventable injury and death are lacking—also, it can be difficult to separate cases of inevitable harm versus preventable harm.

Though consistent and reliable data on the actual frequency of never events in the United States is difficult to come by, studies suggest that lapses in patient safety are a major problem in U.S. healthcare, causing more than 200,000 deaths and between $17 billion and $29 billion in excess hospital costs in each year. A 2013 study estimated that more than 4000 surgical-related never events occur yearly in the United States.

Examples of Never Events

It should be noted that, as human beings, doctors and other medical professionals are given some leeway to make medical mistakes under the law. Also, sometimes medical treatments don’t work as intended despite the best efforts of doctors. The term “never event” is applicable only to those occurrences which are so egregious that they should never have happened to a patient in the first place under any circumstances.

While never events can come in many forms, some examples include:

  • Any medical care ordered or provided by someone impersonating a physician, nurse, pharmacist, or another licensed healthcare provider
  • Being artificially inseminated with the wrong donor sperm or egg
  • Discharging a newborn infant to the wrong person
  • Leaving a foreign body, such as a surgical tool, inside a patient after surgery or other procedure
  • Patient death or injury associated with a medication error, such as giving a patient the wrong drug or dosage
  • Patient death or injury associated with patient elopement (disappearance)
  • Patient death or injury associated with patient suicide or attempted suicide while they are being held in a medical facility
  • Patient death or injury associated with the use of contaminated drugs or defective devices
  • Patient death or injury caused by a fall while being cared for in a healthcare or nursing home facility
  • Sexual assault on or physical or mental abuse of a patient
  • Surgery performed on the wrong body part
  • Surgery performed on the wrong patient

What Should I Do If I’m the Victim of a Never Event?

If you or a loved one has suffered injury or death due to an egregious medical error such as those mentioned above, you may be able to sue the healthcare professional or facility responsible.

To have a viable medical malpractice claim after being the victim of a never event you must be able to prove:

  • A doctor-patient relationship was established between the victim and the perpetrator
  • The doctor made a serious medical mistake that another similarly trained and experienced doctor reasonably would not have
  • The mistake caused harm to the patient, either resulting in serious injury or death
  • The patient’s injury or death resulted in compensable damages, such as medical bills, funeral expenses, or lost wages

At The Dickinson Law Firm, our Woodstock medical malpractice attorneys can help you determine who is responsible for the never event that caused you harm and obtain full compensation for what has been taken from you. Contact us now to book a free case evaluation with a skilled and experienced lawyer.