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3 of the most common surgical ‘never events’ that still occur

Some medical errors are the results of human limitations, like a doctor having their own medical emergency halfway through administering treatment. When it comes to surgical errors, there are many protective protocols in place to minimize the risk of something going wrong and a patient ending up injured as a result.

Unfortunately, surgeons and other medical professionals can make extreme mistakes that harm a patient despite the systems in place to reduce such errors. Some of these surgical mistakes are so severe and easily preventable that professionals refer to them as never events, a name that means that they should never happen in modern operations.

What are some of the most common never events that affect surgical patients in the United States?

Wrong-site or wrong-side procedures

If you need to have tendonitis surgery performed on your dominant arm, the doctor could potentially make a mistake and assume that you are like the majority of people and are there for right-handed. It is unfortunately quite common for doctors to perform a procedure on the wrong side of someone’s body or the wrong body part entirely.

Not only will someone have undergone an unnecessary medical procedure, but sometimes the mistake will prevent the doctor from performing the procedure the patient actually needed to undergo.

Wrong-procedure mistakes

If a doctor forgets the order in which they will perform their operations for the day or if there is some kind of clerical error with a patient’s medical records, a surgeon might actually perform the wrong procedure entirely.

For example, they might perform an appendectomy on somebody who required tumor removal. As with wrong-site and wrong-side procedures, performing the wrong surgery can have devastating consequences for the patient.

Foreign objects left behind

The surgeon performing the procedure and the support staff assisting them have to fill out very detailed paperwork related to the surgery. Most modern facilities require that they account for every sponge, clamp and scalpel. That may mean that they realize after suturing someone’s incision that they left some kind of foreign object inside a patient’s body.

People with foreign objects left in their bodies almost always require revision procedures, as the risk of infection is extreme. Additionally, the items may cause irritation to the surrounding tissue or even trauma if they are rigid, as would be the case with metal surgical tools.

Those harmed by a surgical never event and those who lose a loved one in a botched procedure may be able to pursue a medical malpractice claim against the doctor or the facility, especially if the surgical error was as extreme as a never event. Learning more about medical malpractice can help you pursue justice when a doctor makes a mistake.