“Billions Paid Out for Surgical Errors.” By Cole Petrochko, MedPage Today

Surgical “never events” — such as leaving a sponge in a patient — cost healthcare professionals a minimum of $1.3 billion in malpractice payouts from 1990 to 2010, researchers found. In an analysis of such surgical mishaps, a mean of $133,055 per event was paid out for 9,744 “never events” that resulted in permanent injury in 32.9% of patients, according to Martin Makary, MD, of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and colleagues. “These [malpractice] payments do not capture the even greater financial burdens of legal fees, additional inpatient and disability care, lost work days, and harm to the provider and hospital reputation,” they wrote online in the journal Surgery. A great majority of “never event” malpractice claims were settled out of court (96%), while court judgments increased the odds of a higher-than average payment nearly threefold.

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Source Study: Makary MA, et al “Surgical never events in the United States” Surgery 2013; DOI: 10.1016/j.surg.2012.10.005

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