Considered preventable, never events are medical mistakes that may occur due to numerous reasons and result in serious injury or death for patients.

People in Virginia may seek medical treatment for a number of acute and chronic injuries and illnesses throughout their lives. When they place their health in the hands of their medical providers, patients typically expect them to act with the utmost care, responsibility and professionalism. Unfortunately, however, preventable medical mistakes may sometimes occur, and potentially result in serious injury, a worsening of their conditions or death for patients.

Serious reportable events

While some medical mistakes are simply unavoidable accidents, others can be prevented with the appropriate level of care. First coined in 2001, the term never events describes serious adverse medical events that are usually avoidable and can be clearly identified and measured. These preventable medical errors are referred to by this term because it is widely held that they should not ever happen.

Initially developed in 2002 and updated regularly, the never event list includes 29 serious reportable events. This includes wrong-site surgery or wrong procedure, use of contaminated devices, administration of contaminated drugs, wrong medication dosage or wrong medication, retained foreign objects and releasing patients who cannot make decisions for themselves to anyone other than an authorized guardian or caregiver. These events are grouped into one of seven categories - surgical or procedural events, product or device events, patient protection events, care management events, environmental events, radiological events and criminal events.

Potential risk factors

There are numerous factors that may contribute to the occurrence of medical never events. This includes human error such as taking the wrong action, failing to act or failing in the execution of an action. Especially in hospital settings, there are often many providers and staff members involved in the care of patients. Therefore, breakdowns in communication also present a risk for preventable doctor errors.

Preventable medical mistakes may also happen due to systems failures. For example, a hospital patient may suffer injury if, due to the facility lacking adequate staffing, his or her calls for assistance go unanswered. Equipment failures, resulting from technical mishaps or a lack of operational skill by the medical professional using it, also commonly play a role in the occurrence of medical never events.

Seeking financial compensation

As a result of medical never events, patients may require additional or extended treatment and care. This may lead to undue unnecessary physical and emotional pain and suffering, as well as undue medical expenses and lost wages. Under some circumstances, health care providers may be held liable for this type of medical negligence. Therefore, people who have suffered injury as a result of doctor errors that should not have happened may benefit from discussing their rights and options with a legal representative.