Have you ever heard of a “never event”? It’s the name given to medical mistakes that should never happen. And when you discover how often “never events” happen, you may not look at mainstream medicine the same again.
According to a 2012 Johns Hopkins study, surgeons in the U.S. …
- Leave “foreign objects” – such as sponges – in patients’ bodies 39 times every week. That’s 2,028 times a year!
- Perform the wrong procedure on patients 20 times a week. That’s 1,040 incorrect procedures per year. Or about 3 mistakes a day.
- Operate on the wrong part of someone’s body about 20 times a week. That’s another 1,040 annual errors.
That’s more than 4,000 serious surgical errors a year. Errors that could result in losing a limb… or a life.
About 59% of these mistakes involve temporary injury. But a third lead to permanent injury. And 6.6% led to death. Every year.
6.6% of 4,000 is 264… which may not sound like a lot. But these are all preventable deaths. Is there any other profession where 264 preventable deaths annually would be accepted?
I doubt it.
Medicine Is Still as Much Art as Science
Doctors like to tell you Western medicine is based entirely on science. But it’s not.
There’s certainly a strong scientific base to Western medicine. But a skilled diagnostician also relies on instinct and experience.
The National Association for Healthcare Quality recently pointed out how important the art of diagnosis can be.
Their 2014 study found misdiagnosis is the top cause of catastrophic malpractice payouts. In fact, misdiagnoses are twice as likely to lead to catastrophic payouts than any other cause.
In other words, “judgment calls” are the top reason for huge malpractice payouts. And judgment calls aren’t science.
Believe it or not, 21% of Americans say they’ve been victims of medical errors. That’s over 1 out of every 5 adults in the U.S. Almost a third say they know someone else – someone close – who’s had a similar experience
So, What Can You Do?
A St. Jude Children’s Hospital study suggests a remarkably simple answer…
In this study, subjects were more likely to report problems if they felt their concerns would be addressed. And hospital staff was more likely to report problems if they felt it would benefit future patients.
The key in both cases, the study says, is effective feedback.
One way to get feedback is to ask for it. And keep asking till you get it. If enough patients ask often enough, the medical community will respond. Because it will be easier to make feedback the norm than to field constant enquiries.
Preventing errors may not be as easy. But you can ask questions. Such as…
Does the facility use a surgical checklist? These simple lists account for every item on hand for a surgery. And can prevent sponges, cotton, or other object being “left behind.”
In the hospital, ask for a list of the drugs your doctors have ordered – and the schedule. Every time you’re brought a pill, check it against the list.
For every new prescription you get, ask your pharmacist to check for interactions with any drugs and supplements you take. Pharmacists have a far deeper knowledge of drugs than doctors do.
If you’re scheduled for surgery, also mark the area concerned with permanent marker. If the surgery involves any body part that comes in pairs (feet, shoulders, etc.), mark the one not scheduled, too. Writing “Not this one!” on your foot may seem silly. But imagine if the surgeon made an amputation error.
I admit you shouldn’t have to take these precautions. You shouldn’t have to watch out for cars running red lights, either. But you do. And the consequences can be just as serious.
But with a few simple precautions, you can slash your risk of a never event. And maximize your chances of a long, happy life.
About the Author: Jason Kennedy is a celebrated investigative health writer and the author of The X-Factor Revolution and Beyond the Blue Zone. With over 10 years of experience working with today’s leading alternative and anti-aging doctors, Jason shares his insider status and access to the latest breakthroughs with thousands of readers from around world.
“Malpractice study: Surgical ‘never events’ occur at least 4,000 times per year in U.S.,” Johns Hopkins Medicine. Dec 19, 2012.
“Wrong diagnosis leading cause for catastrophic malpractice payouts,” National Association for Healthcare Quality. Aug 26, 2014.
“Patient safety benefits when hospitals provide feedback to staff who report errors, “ St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital;
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