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.