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Never Events: Why Do We Tolerate Them? Part 1

A "never event" is a surgical mistake that is so severe and unnecessary that it should "never" occur. Some common examples include surgeries in which medical professionals operate on the wrong body part, perform the wrong procedure or leave a dangerous object inside the patient's body.

Studies consistently estimate that these surgical mistakes happen around 4,000 times every year - affecting one of every 12,000 procedures. 

Base on these high rates of error, some experts in the medical profession have started questioning why we as a society tolerate such a surprising amount of negligence in such a crucial area. The common analogy to the airline industry is still relevant: imagine if commercial airliners killed or severely injured 4,000 people every year. We would never tolerate this level of failure. For example, even a hint of mechanical malfunction led regulators and airlines to ground the global fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliners indefinitely.

Several hospitals and other healthcare organizations are being more proactive than the bulk of the profession with regards to "never events." Check back later for more coverage of the various programs that are popping up around the country to try to eliminate more of these unnecessary mistakes.

Source: MedPage Today, "Zero Tolerance for Medical Error? Think Again!" David Nash, Feb. 27, 2013

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