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Ignoring Ebola symptoms may be medical malpractice

As New York residents may know, the first case of Ebola diagnosed in the U.S. occurred recently in Texas. Questions surround the hospital's failure to diagnose the patient, given that the hospital was presented with the man's recent travel history to West Africa where the disease is prevalent.

According to sources, after telling a Texas emergency room nurse he had recently arrived to the U.S. from Liberia, the man was told to go home and given antibiotics despite displaying characteristic symptoms of Ebola. He returned to the hospital three days later with a worsened condition, and he was hospitalized and placed in isolation. Initially, the hospital said health care staff was not aware that the man had recently traveled to Africa, but it later retracted its statement and said that staff was alerted.

In Texas, emergency room error must be wanton and willful to prove negligence. This means that there is a conscious effort to put either the patient or others at risk. According to one Texas, given the global concerns surrounding Ebola and steps aimed at hospital readiness, the hospital's response may have wantonly put the patient and his contacts at risk.

Not every state has this type of medical malpractice tort reform. An executive director of the New York Law School's Center for Justice said that Texas has the highest burden of proof for medical error than any other state. While no lawsuits have been filed in Texas regarding Ebola, the patient's family, health care workers or individuals exposed to him after he was sent home may be eligible.

Consulting with an attorney who is experienced in medical malpractice law may prove beneficial in determining eligibility after reviewing a patient's case and conferring with medical experts. An attorney may file a suit on behalf of a patient to recover compensatory and possibly punitive damages against the hospital.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Lawsuits Against Dallas Hospital That First Sent Home Ebola Patient Would Face High Hurdles In Texas", October 07, 2014

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