Even the most dedicated medical professionals can make mistakes from time to time. When it comes to severe mistakes, patients can incur major injuries that require months – or even years – of additional treatment. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, “never events” fall into a category of their own.
The term was first invented by a doctor to describe especially egregious medical errors that should never occur, but the phrase evolved to describe preventable errors that have significant health consequences for the patient, as well errors that occur with no identifiable cause. The following are a few examples of never events and their consequences.
Product and device events
Doctors use medications and medical devices to treat patients, but they can sometimes exhibit major defects. This can include contaminated medications, faulty devices, and intravascular air embolisms, which occur when blood vessels become obstructed by air or gas bubbles during surgery.
Patient protection events
Medical staff must carefully observe patients experiencing mental or emotional issues when admitted to the hospital. A patient protection event describes a lack of care that results in a suicide or self-harm attempt, or that results in a patient leaving the premises and experiencing a major injury. Releasing a patient that lacks sufficient mental capacity without having an authorized person there to assist them is another type of patient protection event.
Surgical events include performing surgery on the wrong body part or the wrong patient, performing the wrong surgery, leaving behind a foreign object, and the death of a patient resulting from anesthesia.
It is up to the medical community to take all precautions to avoid the above never events. To ensure optimum patient care, many states require mandatory reporting of serious medical errors to shine a light on how they occur and how to prevent them.