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Johns Hopkins Study Reveals 80,000 “Never Events” Occur at Hospitals Each Year

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Johns Hopkins Researchers Release Shocking Results of Medical Malpractice Investigation

Researchers at Johns Hopkins Hospital conducted a cautious and rigorous study of national medical malpractice claims, and found some shocking results: the researchers found that a surgeon in the U.S. leaves a foreign object in a patient’s body post-surgery about 39 times per week, performs the wrong surgery on a patient 20 times per week, and operates on the wrong body site 20 times per week.  These shocking results, along with others, were published in the journal Surgery at the end of 2012 and are what are known as “never events”.

Never Events Represent Preventable Medical Errors

The researchers analyzed data from the National Practitioner Data Bank of medical malpractice claims to identify judgments related to retained foreign objects, wrong-procedure and wrong-patient surgeries.   The researchers noted that although there are some medical errors that are unpreventable or impossible to eradicate, such as getting infection rates in hospitals down to zero, “never events” are completely preventable.  They estimate that 80,000 such events occur every year in the U.S., but this estimate is likely too conservative.

Middle-Aged Patients, Doctors Most Commonly Involved in Never Events

Interestingly, the researchers found that patients between the ages of 40-49 were the most likely to experience a never event, and doctors in that same age range were the most likely to cause such an event.  The researchers also noted that hospitals are required to report never events that result in a settlement or judgement to the NPDB, but that some never events aren’t discovered.  For example, a patient must experience a reaction meriting medical attention before a sponge left behind after a surgery would be discovered via x-ray, for example.  Furthermore, hospitals are supposed to voluntarily share never events with the Joint Commission that evaluates hospital safety and practice standards, but most hospitals don’t do that.

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  1. chet says:
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    OMG! I never knew that a lot of cases like are really happening in different hospitals. I think they should make a move to stop this never event.

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