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Are there any birth-related ‘never events’?

There has been a lot written in recent years about the number of people who die as a result of medical errors they suffer while in hospitals or other care facilities.

The first shocker in this regard came in 1999, with a report published in the Institute of Medicine that estimated that nearly 100,000 people were dying annually due to mistakes that should have never happened. Since then, the number of fatalities estimated to be occurring every year has increased. In 2013, a report in the Journal of Patient Safety said the annual death rate due to medical errors could be as high as 440,000.

The causes of those deaths have been attributed to what medical professionals call preventable adverse outcomes. A less euphemistic turn of phrase — “never events” — is now more common.

An array of quality assurance groups from the industry and government have since identified some of the most obvious errors with an eye toward making sure they don’t happen. And it might interest Oregon readers to know that a number of things have been tagged by the National Quality Forum as events that should never happen to mothers and babies.

Included on one NQF list of never events are such things as infant abduction, babies being discharged to a wrong person, and foreign objects being left inside a mother or infant in the wake of some procedure. But there are also some that specifically address health outcome issues, including:

  • The death or serious disablement of a mother or infant from blood transfusion mistakes.
  • Death or serious disability to either mom or baby in low-risk pregnancies.
  • Medication errors that result in death or disability to either of the patients.

Not all injuries can be prevented, but in cases where a provider fails to follow accepted standards of care, permanent damage can result, altering the lives of entire families forever. There are steps that may be taken to protect the rights of families, including pursuing compensation. Speaking with an attorney should always be the first step.