Canada comes up with list of events that should never happen in hospitals

Photo credit: A medical tool is shown in this patient

So what constitutes a serious error by your doctor?

In an effort to increase patient safety at hospitals, Health Quality Ontario recently issued a list of 15 hospital “never events,” detailing incidents that result in serious harm to patients and are preventable if staff do their checks and balances properly.

The list was compiled after analyzing input from healthcare workers, such as physicians and nurses, as well as policymakers, patients, and their families.

Until now, provinces did not have consensus on what should be on a national list of “never events” for hospitals, even though Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia had developed their own patient safety events lists. Now that a national list has been put together, the authors hope, it will focus hospitals to utilize their knowledge and expertise to avoid unnecessary harm to patients. Here are the top five that made the list:

  1. Surgery on the wrong body part or the wrong patient, or conducting the wrong procedure;
  2. Wrong tissue, biological implant or blood product given to a patient;
  3. Unintended foreign object left in a patient following a procedure;
  4. Patient death or serious harm arising from the use of improperly sterilized instruments or equipment provides by the health care facility;
  5. Patient death or serious harm due to a failure to inquire whether a patient has a known allergy to medication, or due to administration of a mediation where a patient’s allergy had been identified.

If you’ve been in a hospital and suffered due to a mistake in your care, you have options. You may launch a complaint against the physician that was in charge with the Canadian College of Physicians and Surgeons, or bring a negligence lawsuit against the hospital.

In Canada, a successful negligence claim requires the patient shows the healthcare practitioner owed a duty of care to the patient and failed to provide the standard of care that came with that duty. The patient must also show the sub-standard care resulted in injuries, which were reasonably foreseeable and were caused by the breach of duty of care.

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 1992 in the case of Lapointe et al v. Chevrette that an error of judgment, even when injury is involved, does not necessarily amount to negligence. All of the factors mentioned above must be met for a successful negligence claim.

The Court has also set out a cap on what can be awarded for pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and loss of life expectancy when a patient suffers an injury due to medical negligence. It has additionally established that in medical malpractice cases, an award of punitive damages — which aims to punish the defendant — should be an exception rather than the rule. These rulings are the reason why medical malpractice lawsuits are not very popular in Canada.

The creation of a national hospital “never events” list is a step in the right direction to reduce the number of patient safety incidents and pave the way for a list of “always events” that will lead Canadian hospitals toward better patient care.

Find a Lawyer