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Why "never events" and surgical errors occur

Many New Jersey patients have probably heard about medical cases gone wrong where patients had the wrong parts of their bodies removed or the wrong surgery performed. While these types of errors known as "never events" are rare, they can and do occur.

It is estimated that these errors occur in about 1 of every 112,000 surgical procedures. This essentially means that a hospital may only have one "never event" occur in every 5 to 10 years. However, this estimate only considers "never events" that occur in surgical operating rooms. When errors that occur in other settings such as ambulances are taken into account, the rate at which "never events" occur may actually be much higher.

While there have been major attempts to prevent "never events" from occurring, adherence to the proper protocols ranges by specialty and by hospital. Further, communication issues are a major factor in many of these events. The Universal Protocol now calls for a surgical timeout, which gives the surgical team a chance to pause and double check the important aspects of the surgery. Even so, errors do still happen. In some cases, the errors even occur before the patient reaches the operating room.

Whether a medical error is caused by negligence or poor communication, the complications resulting from the surgical error could have a major impact on the patient. In some cases, the patient may require additional medical procedures to correct the mistake while other individuals may experience life-altering complications, especially if the wrong body part was removed or operated on. A medical malpractice attorney may help a patient hold the hospital and the surgeon responsible for any damages that occurred. In addition to punitive damages, which are designed to help prevent the specific type of error from occurring again, a patient may seek compensation for medical costs and pain and suffering.

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