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What are Some Surgery “Never” Events?

November 5, 2020

Every surgery has risks. Some of these risks involve possible injury and death.

Prior to a surgical procedure, there are forms to complete, and physicians’ explanations to sit through. These risks typically include complications from anesthesia, infection, and excessive bleeding. But they don’t include the damages when the doctor gives the wrong medication in surgery or performs rotator cuff surgery on the wrong shoulder.

These are “never events”—life-threatening and preventable medical errors that are usually caused by gross negligence. These types of surgical events are mistakes in medical care that are clearly identifiable, preventable, and serious in their consequences for Michigan patients. These medical errors show a real issue in the safety and credibility of a hospital, surgical center, clinic, or care facility and its medical professionals.

Recent research into medical errors shows that these mistake may be the reason for anywhere from 250,000 to 440,000 deaths every year in the United States. Medical errors are the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer. Because of these staggering numbers, it’s important to be aware of serious medical errors and surgery “never” events.

What are the Common Surgery “Never” Events?

There are several “never” events that cause injury and even death to surgery patients. They include:

  • Operating on the wrong person;
  • Performing the incorrect surgical procedure on a patient;
  • Transfusing incompatible blood or organs to a patient;
  • Performing surgery on the wrong body part;
  • Implanting the wrong prosthesis in surgery;
  • Administering the wrong dose of anesthesia during a procedure;
  • Administering an incorrect dose of a medication;
  • Damaging a patient’s organs, tissues, and/or nerves during a procedure;
  • Using contaminated or malfunctioning surgical instruments;
  • Failing to verify medications that are known to cause an allergic reaction in the patient, which sometimes can be fatal; and
  • Leaving a foreign object in a patient after a surgical procedure.

What are the Risk Factors Contributing to These Surgery “Never” Events?

There are several risk factors that add to surgery “never” events. These may answer the question “why” an incorrect dose of medication is administered in surgery or “why” a surgeon operated on the wrong leg:

Human Error

At any point in a patient’s treatment, preparation, or surgical procedure, human error can be committed by any of the following:

  • An act of commission, or doing the wrong thing;
  • An act of omission, not doing something or failing to act;
  • An error in the execution of an act; and
  • An error in preparation and planning.

Common examples of these include a lack of training or expertise in performing a procedure or a mistake in preparing a patient for surgery, such as indicating the wrong leg upon which to be operated.

Communication Error

A surgical team is comprised of the surgeon, an anesthesiologist, a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA), and an operating room nurse. In addition, the operating room may have one or more surgical techs who assist by setting up a sterile operating room and readying supplies and surgery tools. With all of these individuals working in the surgery, there must be sound and effective communication. Any of these parties can have a breakdown or mistake in  communication which can cause an unexpected error or a “never” event.

System Failure

The system in a surgical procedure includes critical information required to perform a procedure correctly. This can include:

  • Inadequate staffing in the surgical suite:
  • A lack of lab results, medical records, and a list of the patient’s known drug allergies;
  • Improper surgical equipment; or
  • An inadequate supply of blood, plasma, or medications.

Equipment Failure

An equipment failure can take the form of a technical failure or lack of skill in a person responsible for its operation. This can include:

  • Issues with administering anesthesia;
  • Malfunctioning surgical tools;
  • Mislabeled equipment or medications; or
  • Inaccurate readings from monitors.

Can I Sue?

If you or a loved one have suffered a “never” event that caused injury and death in surgery, you may bring a lawsuit for damages. A plaintiff must show that:  the doctor failed to provide a reasonable standard of care; and that error caused the patient suffered physical injury and/or financial losses from the negligence.

For a free consultation with an experienced medical malpractice attorney in Michigan, contact Buchanan Firm. We can discuss your situation if you believe you’ve been injured as the result of a “never” event.

Our firm proudly serves people all across Michigan, including major cities like Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Detroit, Lansing, Holland, St. Joe, and Ann Arbor, and rural towns such as Lowell, Ada, Fremont, Newaygo, Grand Haven, Rockford, and Cedar Springs. We will meet you after-hours, at home or in the hospital to accommodate you.

Contact us today!