Medical Malpractice Study Reveals Almost 10,000 Surgical Errors By Tod Aronovitz | 12/21/12 | 0 Comment

Surgeons perform the wrong procedure or accidentally leave a sponge inside a patient too often, claims a startling new study of medical malpractice claims.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine released troubling news of medical malpractice errors in the U.S. over the 20-year period from September 1990 to September 2010 in an online study published this week in the journal Surgery.

Despite recent initiatives to improve the quality of health care, the study focuses on what the medical community calls “never events.” A surgical never event is considered to be an adverse outcome that is clearly identifiable and measurable, serious (meaning that it can result in death or significant disability), and usually preventable.

The National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB), a closely guarded federal database of medical malpractice claims, was used to identify instances of medical malpractice and associated payments made to patients.

Researchers identified 9,744 malpractice payments tied to surgical never events between September 1990 and September 2010. The most common errors included:

  • Foreign object (like a sponge) left behind: 49.8%
  • Wrong procedure: 25.1%
  • Wrong site: 24.8%
  • Wrong patient: 0.3%

Federal law requires that adverse actions taken against a health care professional’s license and that result in a settlement or judgment be reported to the NPDB. The authors estimate that 4,082 surgical never event claims occur in the U.S. annually.  In reality there are many reporting exceptions, and not all adverse events are discovered, causing the researchers to speculate that the actual number of never events is underestimated.

Medical malpractice payments for these never events cost the health care industry $1.3 billion from 1990 to 2010, with a mean payment of $133,055 per event. The human toll was even greater, however, including the death of the patient in 6.6 % of the studied “never events,” permanent injury (32.9%) or temporary injury (59.2%).

Not all doctors learn from their mistakes. Of physicians named in a surgical never event claim, 12.4% were later named in at least one future surgical never event claim.

Click on the link for an abstract of the article titled, “Surgical Never Events in the United States.”

ARONOVITZ LAW: Representing Florida Consumers in Wrongful Death Cases

The Miami wrongful death law firm of ARONOVITZ LAW pursues justice for those who have been injured by the wrongful actions or omissions of another individual, government agency, or corporation. We can assist you with civil litigation, consumer class action litigation, whistleblower cases, medical malpractice, product liability, and wrongful death.

Contact Miami wrongful death attorney Tod Aronovitz for a confidential discussion of your case.