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A study by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine concludes that more than 4,000 surgical "never events" occur in this country each year. A never event is an error by a physician that is considered to be absolute malpractice and should never occur if proper medical practices are followed. Examples of never events include operating on the wrong body part or leaving a foreign body such as a sponge inside the patient.

The Johns Hopkins study analyzed claims made to the federal National Practitioner Data Bank, an agency that tracks reports of malpractice claims. More than 80,000 claims were reported to the Data Bank in the past 20 years where the incident was classified as a never event. The study notes that while hospitals and doctors have developed safety precautions to eliminate these types of errors, such as having the patient sign their own body with a marker in the place where the operation is intended to be performed, never events continue to occur at an alarming rate, indicating a failure to employ basic safety protocols.

The authors of the study, physicians themselves, advocate public reporting of never events so as to allow patients to be better informed about their health care choices. The lead author, Dr. Marty Makary, M.D., " advocates public reporting of never events, an action that would give consumers the information to make more informed choices about where to undergo surgery, as well as "put hospitals under the gun to make things safer."

A copy of the study cab be found on the Johns Hopkins website here:


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