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Comment & Response
January 2016

Emotional Aspects of Never Events

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of General, Endocrine, and Transplant Surgery, Medical University of Gdansk, Gdansk, Poland
  • 2Department of Neonatology, Medical University of Gdansk, Gdansk, Poland
JAMA Surg. 2016;151(1):95-96. doi:10.1001/jamasurg.2015.3085

To the Editor Despite the statistics systematically summarized by Hempel and collegues1 in a recent issue of JAMA Surgery, never events (ie, serious, preventable surgical events) have enormously emotional aspects that touch everyone involved. Out of an unlimited number of possible surgical complications, never events carry the highest emotional load. These emotions are bilateral. They are borne by the patients and their relatives but also by the participating surgical staff. For both sides, never events can be similarly devastating. It is well recognized that patients who experience a never event are subject to trauma—a trauma that questions the trust, dedication, good will, quality, and good name of the organization and of individual staff members. The degree of a patient’s trauma is mostly dependent on the reversibility of the event. Some never events are irreversible; some are completely reversible, often with a simple (obviously from the surgical point of view) intervention. The cofounding factors are personal susceptibility and personal characteristics (less for irreversible events). This is additionally aggravated by legal advisors and the media.

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