The medical community in West Virginia classifies wrong-site, wrong-procedure or wrong-patient surgeries as “never events” because they should never happen. When researchers review information about these mistakes, they consistently identify communication problems as a contributing force. Although surgical checklists and mandatory timeouts to review a surgical plan appear to aid in the reduction of these errors, communication mistakes prior to entering the operating room could undermine safety protocols.

Examples of these surgical errors often cause significant harm. For instance, neurosurgeons too often perform procedures on the wrong level of patients’ spines. In one case of wrong-patient surgery, a patient received a cardiac procedure meant for someone with a similar last name.

Although rare, these serious medical mistakes happen in about one out of 112,000 surgeries performed in operating rooms. Researchers suspect that the rate might be higher if errors in ambulatory surgical centers could be counted. A study that looked at Veterans Affairs data suggested that half of these never event surgeries took place in settings other than operating rooms. To promote safety, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services ceased paying hospitals for follow-up procedures necessary after never event errors.

When a person experiences a medical error, costly additional treatments and long hospital stays could result as well as long-term physical harm. To pursue compensation with a medical malpractice lawsuit, a victim could seek representation from an attorney familiar with medical litigation. The lawyer could gain testimony from outside physicians about the patient’s medical records. After organizing the evidence of medical negligence, legal counsel could open negotiations for a settlement. If a health care provider and insurer resist responsibility, then an attorney could advance the case to a jury trial.