Unfortunately, injuries in hospitals are all too common. One class of such injuries has been labeled as “never events”, a term used to describe medical errors that should never happen under any circumstances. 

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (“DPH”) calls these types of injuries “serious reportable events” (“SRE”) and there are regulations that outline what events constitute a SRE (for example, surgery on the wrong leg) and what a hospital is required to do should SRE occur during the course of a patient’s care. 

The regulations require hospitals, within seven (7) days, to report SRE causing serious injury (or death) to the patient (or his or her family), the patient’s health insurer (including Medicaid or Medicare) and the DPH’s Bureau of Health Care Safety and Quality. An updated report to all is required within 30 days and must include an analysis of the cause of the event and whether the event was preventable.

In 2013, Massachusetts acute care hospitals reported 753 of these events and non-acute care hospitals reported 206 events. Hospitals are not permitted to charge either the patient or health insurer for SRE or treatment required for the resulting injuries.

DPH has put out a lengthy, detailed list of SRE. They generally fall within several categories:

  1. Surgical events such as surgery on the wrong patient, wrong procedure performed, wrong surgical site or leaving a foreign object in after surgery;
  2. Events related to a product or device such as use of a contaminated drug or device or device misuse or malfunction;
  3. Patient protection events such as patient suicide or elopement;
  4. Patient care management events such as medication errors, patient falls, serious pressure ulcers or death of a mother during childbirth following a low risk pregnancy;
  5. Environmental events such as patient burns, electric shock or gas injuries;
  6. Radiology events such as a metallic object in an MRI area; and 
  7. Criminal events such as abuse or assault (including sexual) on a patient or abduction of a patient.

If you or a family member receive a letter from a hospital or other health care provider describing SRE, you should consult a lawyer immediately. 

The DPH regulations do not provide for compensation to injured parties—they only require the reporting of these events. The process for obtaining compensation is completely apart from the DPH rules and is best handled by personal injury attorneys with specialized competence in medical malpractice cases. 

SUGARMAN lawyers have represented many victims of “never events” and SRE and are available to consult with any patient or family member receiving a hospital “never event” letter. Please fill out a Contact Form, call us at 617-542-1000 or e-mail info@sugarman.com for a consultation.