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Emergency room discharge may have been negligent

Readers have likely heard about the recent Ebola scare, as well as the death of a 42-year-old Dallas man who was the first reported case in the United States. The man’s surviving loved ones are now asking some tough questions of the doctors that treated him. 

They are not alone. Some infectious disease specialists have also questioned whether the tragic ending might have been avoided if the man had received treatment sooner. 

Specifically, the man reported to a hospital emergency room after experiencing discomfort, yet he was inexplicably released. However, his seemingly clean bill of health was short-lived: He returned two days later via ambulance.

Others have questioned the 10-day delay in prescribing an experimental Ebola drug called brincidofovir. Here, by the time doctors finally put the man on brincidofovir his kidneys had failed. According to one infectious disease specialist, the challenge in treating Ebola is in early detection and treatment -- before the virus has disrupted the functioning of bodily organs.

A medical malpractice attorney knows that the reasons for a doctor’s misdiagnosis are significant, as they could give way to legal liability for any harm caused. Specifically, a mistake due to human error or negligence could be viewed as a breach in the doctor’s professional duty of care.

Yet does the emergency room admittance change the analysis? A medical malpractice attorney would answer that it shouldn’t. Although first responders to a scene, such as paramedics, may have extra protection from negligence lawsuits, emergency room doctors and other personnel are generally held to the same standard as other medical professionals. For that reason, the investigation in the emergency room care provided to the Ebola victim in this story will be of great interest to many in the legal community.

Source: Bloomberg, “Family of Dead U.S. Ebola Patient Question Hospital Care,” Alex Wayne, Oct. 9, 2014

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