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Surgical never-events and wrongful death claims

Losing a loved one to an illness and/or medical complications can be incredibly difficult on an emotional and financial level. Families are often encouraged that a particular procedure or course of medical treatment will improve their relative’s condition or quality of life. Unfortunately, however, there are instances where purely avoidable medical mistakes result in patients’ death in medical facilities across the state of California and the entire country. Consequently, wrongful death claims can be introduced by representatives of patients believed to have been subjected to fatal acts of medical malpractice.

According to one professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, a “never event” is a medical mistake that’s entirely preventable. For instance, performing an incorrect procedure and/or failing to remove a surgical device from a patient are considered never events. Despite the fact that such surgical errors are avoidable, and safety guidelines and precautions are implemented in facilities everywhere, thousands of never-event incidents continue to occur annually.

Johns Hopkins estimates that between 1990 and 2010, approximately 80,000 never-event incidents occurred throughout the nation. Researchers investigating medical malpractice claims determined that wrongful death incidents accounted for almost 7 percent of those claims and that over $1 billion was paid in malpractice awards. Given the prevalence of fatal medical mistakes, it’s important for patients’ families and potential claimants to understand what a wrongful death lawsuit is and how it applies in medical malpractice incidents.

A representative for the deceased patient may file a wrongful death suit in the event that the patient is believed to have died as a result of medical negligence or misconduct, according to Findlaw. Any and all potential damages resulting from the lawsuit are awarded to the victim’s estate, and are then distributed to the appropriate surviving parties. And in medical malpractice cases involving a never event, multiple parties may be identified as defendants in the wrongful death suit, including the operating physician and medical facility.

While the type and size of damages awarded in a wrongful death suit can depend on numerous factors, pecuniary damages are determined by quantifying the financial losses caused by the patient’s death. His or her age, earning potential and role in the family may be taken into consideration when formulating damages. It is worth noting, however, that the actual award amount that plaintiffs receive can differ from the figure agreed upon by the jury in the case.


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