Never Events Image

Never Events

By Bradley Gibson | July 7, 2021

The documentary Never Events exposes the prevalence of preventable medical mistakes, the kind that need never occur and yet still do with alarming frequency. The term is used in the medical profession to describe high-impact mistakes that could have been avoided. Director Angela Asatrian reveals that medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States and presents case studies of people who’ve suffered from them and interviews with families of those who died because of incompetent treatment. Doctors who are pushing for better rules to prevent mistakes are also featured. 

While it’s a frequent topic discussed in the media, Asatrian summarizes the issue and personalizes it with individual stories, including one about her friend who was injured by several severe mistakes made by a surgeon during a relatively simple procedure to remove an ovarian cyst. As a result, she suffered sepsis and severe blood loss, and the combination of injuries left her permanently scarred. This is a horrific story, as are others told in the film, and should serve as cautionary tales to anyone undergoing treatment to be sure they understand how to advocate for themselves, and if possible, to have another person along to act as an advocate when the patient is unable. 

“…reveals that medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States…”

The stories are compelling, and the images of the damage done to the patients are graphic and scary. However, the filmmaker, including herself on screen, gives the film a bit less polish than a typical documentary since she wasn’t personally injured by a medical mistake. Having oneself depicted doing research and in interviews feel amateurish, but this takes nothing away from the message that medical mistakes take a terrible toll on U.S. patients. 

The last third of the film starts to feel less like an exposé of medical mistakes and more like marketing/lobbying against the 1975 California MICRA (Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act ) law, which was intended to lower medical malpractice liability insurance premiums for healthcare providers in that state by decreasing their potential legal liability. 

Never Events (2021)

Directed and Written: Angela Asatrian

Starring: Eric Andrist, John T. James, Marty Makary, etc.

Movie score: 8/10

Never Events Image

"…exposes the prevalence of preventable medical mistakes..."

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