It's difficult to say if the absolute number of "never events" has gone up or not. Certainly they are only a small fraction of the total of cases of malpractice, especially if you're arguing that medical malpractice is a leading cause of death. Because of medicalisation, the absolute number of "never events" might well have risen. But from what I've have heard from here and there, the very reason that these things are brought up these days is that the situation is much better than, say, in the wild 70's. Back then, a doctor could do about anything and only his self-confidence was the limit. See one, do one, teach one, or something like that. It's not like that anymore, or it shouldn't be. Difficult/rare operations are concentrated in big hospitals. Surgeons specialise more and more. That sort of thing.