Defining a never event in medicine

Back in 2001, medical professionals first coined the term “never event.” At the time, it generally referred to drastic and even shocking events that no one felt should happen under any circumstances. A great example is a surgeon amputating the wrong arm. It’s a stunning, life-changing mistake. 

The definition has changed a bit over time, though. Now experts tend to include all events that have serious ramifications, that are typically preventable and that are unambiguous, or easily measurable and identifiable. 

Medical professionals have gone on to create seven categories that generally cover all never events. These are as follows:

  • Product or device events
  • Surgical or procedural events
  • Patient protection events
  • Environmental events
  • Care management events
  • Criminal events
  • Radiologic events

The basic idea has never changed, though. These events are things that should not happen, that patients should not ever have to go through. There are usually procedures in place to prevent them from happening. Doctors and support staff have to make serious mistakes to let these events occur. 

For instance, a surgeon may carry out the wrong surgery when he or she gets a patient with a similar name. The name should be checked multiple times before the procedure begins, but, if no one actually does check it, things can slip through the cracks. This should never happen if the right steps were followed by careful medical professionals. 

Even though the term shows that you should never experience something like this, the very fact that we have a term for it shows that it is a potential threat. If you experience serious ramifications after a never event, you need to know about all of the legal options you have.