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The outer limits of medical malpractice: “Never Events”

Tennessee residents may have varied expectations concerning processes and outcomes when they seek medical attention, but they uniformly share one common belief.

That is this: The health care professionals they rely upon for guidance and treatment will act competently and be guided by the bedrock medical principle of “do no harm.”

That is certainly a reasonable expectation, and one that is similarly shared by regulators within the health industry as well. Doctors and other medical practitioners become eligible to practice only after years of arduous education and training. That is followed by additional requirements they must satisfy before being deemed experts in their fields and duly licensed to work with the general public.

As such, they are held to a high – but reasonable – standard of care. That measuring stick applies uniformly to all their credentialed peers and can be turned to for guidance regarding the level of delivered care and instances where competency lacks.

The bottom line, as stated in one legal overview of medical care and expected performance, is that “we believe the advice we are given” when we visit a physician. We have every right to do so.

So-called “never events:” when things go seriously wrong

Every medical outcome is ideal – in a fictional universe.

Conversely, real-world medical problems aren’t always responded to in an error-free manner promoting perfect health. Medical professionals do sometimes make mistakes grounded in negligence, with their lapses spawning serious – and sometimes catastrophic – results for patients and their families.

A representative list of claims filed by victims of medical malpractice is long and varied. It ranges from diagnostic error (missed, delayed or wrong) and medication mistakes to birth injuries, hospital-acquired infections and more.

Including “never events.”

Readers might readily grasp what such an event signifies. An in-depth primer on the topic authored by the research/advocacy group Patient Safety Network describes never events as “particularly shocking medical errors.” The bottom line regarding never events is that they should absolutely never occur.

Absent flat-out medical negligence, they never do. When doctors and linked medical teams simply go about their work with due care and competence, events such as the following are not even remote concerns:

  • Surgeries performed on wrong patients and wrong body parts
  • Wrong surgery performed
  • Retention of foreign object in patient following surgery (e.g., a sponge or scalpel)
  • Major medication error leading to serious disability or death
  • Contaminated drug and/or improper use of medical device
  • Indifferent or ineffective post-operative patient care
  • Patient harm owing to faulty supervision (for example, patient falls, sexual abuse/acts of violence and premature release)

Health care advocates and industry regulators retain a continuous focus on never events, and understandably so. They are outliers in the medical realm and must be entirely eliminated.

Patients and families adversely affected by a never event or any other negligent act or omission that inflicts serious injury can respond by seeking a legal remedy that establishes accountability and secures maximum compensation.

A proven personal injury legal team can guide the process and work diligently to promote those worthy goals.


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