Never say never to hospital "never events"

Many types of hospital and surgical errors are known in the medical community as "never events," because these events should never happen. Unfortunately, they do happen thousands of times a year across the United States. For various reasons, many hospitals don't have procedures in place, or negligently miss steps to safeguard patients from these never events, and people are injured or killed as a result.

KCUR reports that hospital negligence kills up to 440,000 patients annually in the U.S. and the District of Columbia. Medical errors have been cited as the third leading cause of death in our country, only behind heart disease and cancer.

Misplaced surgical implements and other errors

Patients who are fortunate enough not to have been killed by a surgical mistake may suffer lifelong injuries. One of the most common and devastating types of medical errors is that of accidentally leaving surgical instruments inside patients' bodies. These mistakes, which most commonly involve cotton surgical sponges, happen about a dozen times a day, according to USA Today. When this happens, a victim can suffer from excruciating pain and swelling, infections, severe scarring and death. Medicare will deny coverage for the repairs of such mistakes, which can cost at least $60,000 per case.

One woman's life was permanently changed after doctors left a surgical sponge inside her abdomen during a c-section. When she began to suffer from pain and swelling, and her bowels eventually shut down, she returned to the hospital for emergency x-rays. The resulting surgery to remove the infected sponge hospitalized her for almost three weeks.

When this happens to patients, they may sue the hospital or doctor responsible for the mistake, but the laws about medical malpractice lawsuits and caps vary by region.

Other common medical mistakes frequently happen in many hospitals, says CNN. These include:

  • Operating on the wrong body part or side of the body.
  • Treating the wrong patient.
  • Serious hospital infections.
  • Waking up from anesthesia during surgery.

These mistakes can cause patients untold amounts of pain and suffering, and in many cases can last for years or a lifetime. Patients may attempt to prevent such mistakes by asking doctors to wash their hands before a treatment; making sure medical staff thoroughly checks their wristbands before any procedure; and returning to the hospital if experiencing unusual pain, swelling or fever after surgery.

Getting help from an attorney

Despite the best precautions, nothing can truly eliminate the problem of hospital and doctor mistakes. Patients or their families who have been hurt by a doctor error should contact a personal injury attorney with experience in medical malpractice cases. The repercussions from a hospital error can be costly and last for years. Pursuing legal action against a hospital responsible for the mistake may get much needed compensation for the victims.