What Is a “Never Event?”

What Is a “Never Event?”

First introduced by the head of the National Quality Forum in 2001, the expression “never event” quickly came to describe egregious medical errors that simply should not happen. Medical professionals and the federal government have developed a list of never events that includes unambiguous, serious—often fatal—and preventable events that should never happen.

The National Quality Forum first developed a list that included 27 such events, which has since expanded to include 29 never events. These events are grouped into seven categories, consisting of:

  • Surgical events
  • Product or device events
  • Patient protection events
  • Care management events
  • Environmental events
  • Radiologic events
  • Criminal events

Never Events Are Rare

As you would expect from the name, most never events are extraordinarily unusual. One study estimated that surgery on the wrong body part or area—one of 29 never events—happens at a typical hospital only once every five to 10 years. On the other hand, another study estimated more than 4,000 surgical never events every year nationwide. Thus, while never events are uncommon relative to the nationwide population, a significant number of people experience them.

In fact, when a never event occurs, it usually proves devastating to the patient, with 71 percent of such reported events proving fatal. The preventable nature of never events puts tremendous pressure on caregivers and other healthcare providers to put a complete stop to them. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services stopped Medicare payments in August 2007 for additional costs arising from a number of many preventable errors, including never events. Many states and insurers have since followed suit.

What Kinds of Mistakes Constitute Never Events?

If you sat down with a doctor and came up with a list of medical mishaps that should never happen, you likely would generate a list of official never events, including:

  • Surgery on the wrong body part
  • Surgery performed on the wrong patient
  • The wrong surgery performed on a patient
  • Leaving a foreign object in a patient following surgery
  • Incorrect route administration of chemotherapy
  • In-patient suicide involving the use of non-collapsible rails
  • Discharging an infant to the wrong person or people
  • Abduction of a patient

Some of these events might seem more or less egregious than others, but all constitute events that patients should expect to never happen to them—or to anyone else, for that matter. When they do, the patient or family should contact an attorney to determine their rights.

If You Suffered a Never Event in the Richmond area, Contact the Personal Injury Lawyers of Emroch & Kilduff

By definition, never events shouldn’t happen to anyone. However, if such an event happens to you or one of your loved ones in the Richmond area, you have rights. Talk to an attorney to find out those rights and what you can do about the situation. Emroch & Kilduff specialize in personal injury law. They can help you in this situation. Reach us at (804) 358-1568 or through our online contact form.

William B. Kilduff


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