"Never Events"

By: Rebekah Baum
By: Rebekah Baum

It's a patient’s worst nightmare to wake up and find their doctor has performed the wrong surgical procedure it's called a never event and beginning in 2008, all Illinois hospitals will have to disclose these rare, but serious mistakes to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

"This sets up a system of accountability for reporting and in some cases these things wouldn't be known if there wasn't a law," says Assistant Dean of Health Systems Research, Joel Cowen.

Cowen says there are 24 never events which include surgery performed on the wrong patient, foreign objects left in patients, and infants discharged to the wrong parents,.right now, we typically only hear about these instances through malpractice lawsuits.

"The reporting could be quite embarrassing to institutions. These events could happen to anyone on an episodic once in a while basis...but if they start turning up often, I think in certain institutions, there will be concerns among health care consumers," says Cowen.

Cowen says hospitals already have mechanisms in place to prevent these errors.

"If you were to ask any of our local hospitals, they would tell you they already have safeguards and that's the reason hospitals support the legislation, but there's always a thing called human error. And, unfortunately, it does happen and I think with this law we're going to find out how often it happens, says Cowen."

If a hospital does have a never event, it will be required to submit corrective action plans to the state.


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