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How Common are Surgical Malpractice “Never Events?”

Although not all patient injury is a result of medical malpractice, harm caused by medical errors and mistakes is entirely preventable. The same is true of so-called surgical “never events” (NE). As CNN reports, egregious mix-ups and catastrophic mistakes in operating rooms are far too common.

According to statistics from American Medical News and Johns Hopkins Medicine, patients in the U.S. are being subjected to devastating surgical malpractice NE an astounding rate.

Patients in the U.S. are being subjected
to devastating surgical malpractice NE
(According to statistics from American Medical News and Johns Hopkins Medicine)

An astounding 80 times per week

More than 4,000 times a year

And at least 80,000 times in
the 20 years between 1990 and 2010


What is a Never Event (NE)?

So, what is a Never Event? The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) states the term NE refers to “particularly shocking medical errors (such as wrong-site surgery) that should never occur.” NEs may include errors by doctors or surgical staff, adverse events of an unambiguous nature, and serious mistakes resulting in substantial disability or death.

Types of Surgery Never Events

The official list of NEs includes 29 events divided into seven categories including surgical, product or device, patient protection, care management, environmental, radiologic and criminal. Not all events happen during surgery, but some of the more common surgical malpractice NE involves:



Medical Error and Malpractice Mistake Statistics

Based on NE reports received by the AHRQ, almost 71 percent of reported incidents lead to patients suffering serious or fatal injuries.

Johns Hopkins Medicine states that in 9,744 cases in which malpractice judgements and claim were paid,
involved the
death of a patient
involved patients
who had suffered
permanent injury
involved patients
who suffered
temporary injury

With injury and fatality rates being so high, you would expect hospitals and other medical professionals to have safety procedures in place to help minimize the risk of these medical errors and mistakes. Yet, widespread protocols have allegedly been ineffective at putting an end to them, especially in the surgical setting.

CNN reports that over a six and a half year period in Colorado alone, doctors operated on the wrong patient 25 times and the wrong body part another 107 times. Johns Hopkins Medicine expands this further by stating that, after reviewing national malpractice claims, it has found:

  • Foreign objects are left in patients following an operation or surgical procedure 39 times a week
  • The wrong procedure is carried out on patients 20 times a week
  • Wrong-site surgeries also occur around 20 times a week.

Surgical NEs cause extensive injury and loss, and the financial repercussions of such mistakes are immense. According to AMED News, the average medical malpractice liability payout for a surgical NE is more than $130,000. In the period between 1990 and 2010, payouts reached levels of up to $7.1 million, although average cases and payouts during this time were:



4,857 cases with an average payout of $86,247


2,447 cases with an average payout of $232,035


2,413 cases with an average payout of $127,159


27 cases with an average payout of $109,648


Why You Need Legal Representation in Philadelphia 

If you or a loved one has being injured or hurt due to a surgical malpractice never event, it is important you retain legal representation at once. An attorney will be able to investigate your claims, gather the evidence necessary to determine fault and assist you in building your case. Without having a skilled Philadelphia medical malpractice attorney advocating on your behalf, your chances of being able to prove medical negligence and seek the compensation you rightfully deserve will be significantly reduced.

The attorneys at The Colleran Firm handle serious injury cases caused by health care provider negligence and medical malpractice in Pennsylvania & New Jersey.

Connect With Us:

The Colleran Firm

2005 Market Street # 1940
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Phone: (215) 972-8000
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