Sometimes when we adopt certain uses in language, we can turn something important into something that sounds rather ordinary and banal. Consider the “retained object.” That’s what hospitals and physicians call “things they left behind.” Clamps, sponges, retractors, caps to instruments – all sorts of things can be left behind in the surgical field.
Medicare considers these forgotten objects to be “never” events – meaning something that should never happen in a surgery. Every operating room has a strict protocol to be sure this doesn’t happen – sponges are counted (How many went in? How many came out?). Same with clamps and the like – the same number should come out as went in. The circulating nurse has this as their job – watch the equipment.
And yet, we don’t call the failure to follow protocol what it really is. We call them “retained objects” as if somehow the anesthetized body of the person in the operating room has conspired to hold onto this equipment. This obviously isn’t the case.
The consequences of forgotten equipment can be devastating. Infection is the #1 complication. Pain. Second surgeries to remove the object. Permanent disability.
So don’t let anyone tell you it’s a retained object – somebody did a “never” and left equipment behind.