The Top 7 Never Events in Obstetrics July 5, 2024.

The Top 7 Never Events in Obstetrics

The birth of a new baby is an amazing time in the parent’s lives, but it can also be extremely stressful. Families trust that the mother and baby will be properly monitored and cared for by their doctor. However, this isn’t always the case. Some families experience severe neglect by their medical providers that result in preventable injuries to the mother or baby. 

What Are Never Events?

The term “never events” refers to events in healthcare that are 100% preventable and identifiable. Therefore, it means that they should never happen. But, unfortunately these errors affect thousands of patients annually. 

In a 2013 study, researchers found that around 4,000 never events occur each year. However, the current number of never events that occur each year is unknown. This is due to underreporting by medical staff, and patients not correctly reporting the errors.

The Top 7 Never Events in Obstetrics

During labor and delivery, families rely on their doctors to correctly care for and monitor the mother and baby. Despite this care being crucial for a healthy mother and baby, doctors frequently fall below the standard of care, leading to severe patient injuries.

The top 7 never events in obstetrics include:

  • Preventable maternal deaths.

  • Failure to communicate test results.

  • Foreign objects left in the body.

  • Prolonged Pitocin misuse.

  • Medication errors.

  • Failure to treat hyperbilirubinemia.

  • The infant is discharged to the wrong person.

Continue reading to learn about never events that occur in obstetrics.

Preventable Maternal Deaths

Every expecting mother hopes to have a low-risk pregnancy, This means that there are no maternal or fetal complications. However, even in low-risk pregnancies, many mothers die each year due to preventable complications. In fact, over 80% of maternal deaths were preventable, according to the CDC.

Preventable causes of maternal deaths include:

  • Hemorrhaging (excessive bleeding)

  • Heart conditions

  • Infection

  • Hypertensive disorders (high blood pressure)

  • Thrombotic embolism (blood clot)

Deaths from these conditions can be avoided with proper treatment and monitoring of the mother before, during, and after birth.

Failure to Communicate Lab Results

Patients expect prompt communication from their medical provider to discuss test results. However, some providers fail to communicate test results to their patients. This is especially harmful when the tests show there is a problem with the mother or baby. Sadly, when this happens they may not get the necessary treatment that they need. This can lead to the conditions getting worse, and making it harder to treat.

Foreign Object Left in Body

During cesarean sections (C-section), several medical tools are used to deliver the baby. However, if the surgeon is not careful, then tools can be left inside the mother’s body without her knowledge. 

The most common tools retained after C-sections include gauze, sponges, and surgical instruments.  Even though this seems like an error that is easily avoided, it happens more than you may think. Often, the patient doesn’t even find out about this error until they experience severe pain and get an x-ray done. 

Prolonged Pitocin Misuse 

Pitocin is a synthetic drug that is used to progress labor by causing more frequent contractions. This drug is great when used correctly, however it is often misused and not correctly monitored.

During contractions, the blood and oxygen flow briefly stops for the baby, and in between contractions the baby has time to recover. 

When Pitocin is not monitored, then uterine hyperstimulation can occur. This condition is when the contractions are too frequent, which does not give the baby enough time to recover. A lack of oxygen and blood flow can cause birth asphyxia or fetal death.

Medication Errors

Medication errors should never happen, however, these errors are not few and far between. There are more than 100,000 medication error complaints filed each year with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These errors can occur when a medical provider incorrectly prescribes, dispenses, or administers medication.

The most common medication errors include:

  • Too high of a medication dosage (overdose).

  • Medication is given to the wrong patient.

  • Medicine is given too frequently.

  • Similar-sounding drug names. 

  • Incorrect medication is administered.

Medication errors during and after birth can cause seizures, brain damage, and heart damage to the mother or newborn.

Failure to Treat Hyperbilirubinemia

In newborns, hyperbilirubinemia, or jaundice, is very common. This condition causes the yellowing of the newborn’s skin and eyes due to a buildup of bilirubin in the blood. 

Jaundice is not threatening at low levels, but at high levels, it can cause complications for the baby.

If high bilirubin levels are not treated, then kernicterus can occur. Kernicterus is a serious neurological disorder that can lead to hearing issues, cerebral palsy, and learning and developmental disabilities.

Infant Discharged to the Wrong Person

Taking the wrong baby home is a nightmare for new parents. There are systems to ensure this doesn't happen, but these steps are not always taken.

This can happen if the baby is moved out of the hospital room away from their mother or if the discharge staff are inexperienced.

Can You Sue for Never Events?

In Ohio, families who suffered debilitating injuries have the right to bring a lawsuit against medical providers who caused them harm.

In medical malpractice lawsuits, you have to be able to prove:

  • The medical professional had a duty to care for you and the baby.

  • The mother or baby suffered severe injuries.

  • The injuries were caused by a breach of care.

  • The mother or baby suffered damages.

It is crucial to hire an experienced medical malpractice attorney to try your case. Malpractice cases are difficult to prove without extensive medical knowledge.

Contact Our Medical Malpractice Attorneys Today

Did you, or a loved one suffer severe injuries during or after labor, due to a medical provider’s negligence? Contact our Cleveland-based office for a free initial consultation about your potential case.

Call The Mellino Law Firm at (440) 333-3800 or fill out a contact form, and we will contact you as soon as possible.