October 9, 2014

From Inside Counsel

Medical malpractice not easy to prove in Texas, despite concerns over Ebola patient

by Ed Silverstein

There is widespread speculation in the news media that the family of Thomas Eric Duncan could file a lawsuit against the hospital and the doctors who treated him in the emergency room in Dallas. But proving the case is not as easy as one may suspect.

Duncan showed up at the emergency room the first time suffering from a fever, and though he told a nurse he had been in West Africa — the region where there are the most cases of the deadly virus — the information apparently did not make its way to the doctor treating him. Duncan was sent home and told to take an antibiotic. A few days later he returned to the hospital, and this week he died there.

In the case of urgent care centers, it may be “more difficult” to isolate patients, Henson confirms, because of the common waiting room and treatment rooms often being separated simply by a curtain.

“Every provider should have an emergency preparedness plan,” suggests David Cade, a former acting general counsel for the Department of Health and Human Services, who has been a board member of the American Health Lawyers Association and now works at the Polsinelli law firm in Washington, D.C. “The staff needs to understand protocols,” he adds, and the staff needs to “pay attention to their preparedness plan.” The more obvious issues are to ensure there are ways to isolate patients, even in waiting rooms, and proper screening procedures take place.

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