Never Events Still Happening

Never Events Still Happening
Apr 5, 2019

The Joint Commission is the organization that accredits and certifies many of the health care organizations and programs in the USA. As part of its mission, it develops standards and guidelines to improve patient health care. In order to achieve its seal of approval, a health care organization must undergo a site-survey every 3 years. The Joint Commission also publishes its data regarding its surveys and reported events.

Each year, the Joint Commission releases a list of the top 10 “sentinel events.” A “sentinel event” is defined by the Joint Commission as a patient safety event that results in permanent harm to the patient, death to the patient or severe temporary harm and medical interventions are required to save the patient’s life. They are “sentinel events” because they require the health care organization to conduct an investigation and respond.

For the past 5 years, at the top of the list of sentinel events has been the same error – unintended retention of a foreign body. This occurs when an item or foreign object related to an operation is left inside the patient. Such items can include sponges, towels, broken surgical instruments, stapler components, guidewires and surgical needles. Leaving such items in a patient has been deemed to be a “Never Event.” These are medical errors that should never happen.

Despite all the attention that has been placed on items being left behind in patient’s bodies, they still happen. One study found that a surgical sponge left in a patient costs hospitals an average of $77,512 to repair and an average payout to victims of $473,022.

At Warshauer Woodward Atkins, we have handled many such cases and understand the pain, suffering and medical costs associated with such events. If you or a family member have been the victim of such negligence, please call for a free consultation.