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VA hospitals and Never Events: These are the most common types of errors and injuries

Some medical errors are so egregious that they have been termed "Never Events," as in they should never happen. But, unfortunately, each year Never Events occur in medical settings across the country, often with devastating consequences for patients.

We discussed one such Never Event in a recent post about an Army veteran in whose abdomen doctors found a scalpel that had been left their four years earlier. Read on for a brief outline of some of the most common Never Events.

Never Events are generally broken into seven categories.

The categories for Never Events are:

  1. Surgical events
  2. Product or device events
  3. Patient protection events
  4. Care management events
  5. Environmental events
  6. Radiological events
  7. Criminal events

Unfortunately, surgical Never Events are some of the most common: for example, surgery performed on the wrong body part; surgery performed on the wrong patient; deaths due to anesthesia; and leaving a medical device or other foreign object in a patient's body.

Product or device events include those involving injury or death resulting from contaminated drugs or medical devices, or malfunctioning or poorly operated medical devices.

Patient protection events include releasing a vulnerable or incapacitated patient to an unauthorized person; patient elopement or disappearance; and patient suicide or attempted suicide.

Care management events include medication errors; unsafe administration of blood products; loss of an irretrievable biological specimen; and failure to communicate or follow up lab, pathology or radiology test results.

Environmental events include electric shocks; burn injuries due to a source anywhere in the medical setting; improper use of restraints or bed rails; and incidents involving the erroneous administration of oxygen or other gases to patients.

Radiologic events typically involve the introduction of metal objects into the MRI area.

Criminal events include instances of people impersonating medical providers and ordering care of a patient; sexual abuse or assault on a patient; abduction of a patient; physical assault on a patient in or on the grounds of the health care setting.

If you or a loved one has suffered harm due to a Never Event at a VA medical facility, be sure to speak with a lawyer who handles claims against VA hospitals. For more on these matters, please see our previous post, "Relief for VA medical errors - filing an FTCA claim."

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