Johns Hopkins Malpractice Study: Surgical ‘Never Events’ Occur At Least 4,000 Times Per Year

Johns Hopkins patient safety researchers estimate that a surgeon in the U.S. leaves an object such as a sponge or towel inside a patient’s body 39 times a week, performs the wrong procedure on a patient 20 times a week and operates on the wrong body site 20 times per week. 80,000 of these “never events” occurred in American hospitals between 1990 and 2010, which they believe are lower than reality. If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of medical malpractice, contact us immediately. The researchers used the National Practitioner Data Bank, a federal repository of medical malpractice claims, to identify malpractice judgments and out-of-court settlements. They identified 9,744 paid malpractice judgments and claims over those 20 years, with payments totaling $1.3 billion. Death occurred in 6.6% of patients, permanent injury in 32.9% and temporary injury in 59.2%. The more serious the outcome, the more the patient or family was paid. In the study, never events occurred most often among patients ages 40 to 49. Surgeons in the same age group were responsible for most of these occurrences. 62% of surgeons had been cited in more than one malpractice report. Going forward, hospitals are looking into electronic bar codes on instruments and materials to order to precisely count these tools to prevent human error. Better reporting systems are also needed to speed up safety efforts as well as the continuation of sharing never event information with the Joint Commission which assesses hospital safety and practice standards.

Dear Friends and Clients,

In furtherance of our firm’s culture of commitment to always act with compassion, concern and commitment to our clients, community and colleagues, we have been taking precautions to ensure that we are still fulfilling our ethical and moral obligations while prioritizing health, wellness and safety of all we can.

As you know, the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced changes to many lives and businesses in our communities, and around the world. We, much like our neighbors and friends, have been taking precautions to ensure that we are still fulfilling our ethical and moral obligation to our clients, while also prioritizing the health, wellness and safety of our employees.

Until further notice, our offices will be closed to the public to encourage social distancing and to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Our team is still hard at work, many from home, and you may still call, email, live chat or video conference us if you or a loved one is seeking legal assistance. As the first law firm to offer our clients secure online access to their case file more than a decade ago, we have always been believers in using technology to make life easier and information more accessible. In these present times it has been a smooth transition for us to continue to offer our clients the same seamless and thorough service that you deserve and are accustomed to.

This pandemic is unlike anything any of us have faced in our lifetimes, and while we can continue to emotionally support one another through it all, staying home and keeping your distance is vital to the health and wellness of our communities. It does not feel good to break routines, cancel events and retreat from our normal, day-to-day socializing, but let us remember that, in times of strife, prior generations were asked to go to war and we are simply being asked to stay home. Your isolation equals more lives saved, and more time for medical providers to prepare for the treatment of patients battling COVID-19.

When the dust settles, we will join together with a greater appreciation for our lives, local businesses, loved ones and health. Until then, we will continue to offer guidance from a safe distance.

Very truly yours,

Andrew G. Finkelstein and the staff of Finkelstein & Partners, LLP