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Study Estimates More Than 4000 Medical “Never Events” Occur Each Year in U.S.

Surgeons in the United States leave foreign objects such as sponges and surgical tools in patients 39 times a week and perform the wrong procedure 20 times a week, patient safety researchers at Johns Hopkins University estimate in a new study.

In an article published online in the medical journal Surgery, the Johns Hopkins researchers estimate that 80,000 medical errors that should never happen occurred in U.S. hospitals between 1990 and 2010. The researchers based their estimates on an analysis of the National Practitioner Data Bank, a federal repository of medical malpractice claim information. Hospitals are required by law to report never events that lead to a settlement or judgment to the National Practitioner Data Bank.

Certain types of medical errors are known as never events because it’s generally understood that they should never happen during surgery. The researchers estimate that 4,044 never events occur in the United States each year. They say the estimate, if anything, is likely on the low side because not all foreign objects left in patients are detected unless the patient develops a complication.

“The events we’ve estimated are totally preventable,” study leader Dr. Marty Makary, an associate professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine said in a press release. “This study highlights that we are nowhere near where we should be and there’s a lot of work to be done.”

Never events occurred most often among patients between the ages of 40 and 49, the study indicates. Doctors in this same age range were responsible for more than one-third of the medical errors compared to 14.4 percent for surgeons over the age of 60. Sixty-two percent of the surgeons were cited in more than one malpractice report, and 12 percent were named in multiple never events.

These preventable medical errors should never occur. But when they do, the patients and their families should have aggressive medical malpractice lawyers advocating for your legal rights.

If you suspect that you or a loved one has been harmed by a preventable medical error, talk to the medical malpractice attorneys at Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys.

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