Is Ebola The Next Wave Of Medical Malpractice Cases?

Is Ebola The Next Wave Of Medical Malpractice Cases?

When the first case of Ebola was announced in the U.S., many people were stunned to find out that Thomas Eric Duncan was initially released from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital even after he told staff that he had just returned from Liberia. Just a few days later, Duncan was admitted to the hospital when his symptoms worsened, making him the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States.

Outrage over how the hospital originally diagnosed Duncan quickly set in across the country. Many feared the spread of the virus due to his exposure to the public. Worst of all, Duncan’s family suffered as they watched his health quickly decline until he passed away on Oct. 8.

Medical malpractice cases are designed to protect not just the person, but also the injured individual’s family. Medical negligence cases improve public safety by keeping the medical industry, professionals, doctors and institutions liable for properly executing accepted standards of care.

When Duncan’s case went public, many assumed the family would file suit against the hospital for malpractice. Each state has its own standards concerning what constitutes medical malpractice. To file a claim in Texas, for instance, the plaintiff must demonstrate that staff acted “willfully and wantonly negligent.”

The family never filed a lawsuit. Instead, on Oct. 7, the hospital announced that it had settled with Duncan’s family for an undisclosed amount of money. The funds from the settlement will be used to provide for Duncan’s parents and his four children. The hospital also agreed to not charge the family for Duncan’s medical treatment.

Fortunately, in the wake of the Duncan tragedy, many hospitals are now following protocol set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in recognizing and handling Ebola patients. Still, it remains to be seen how the virus will continue to affect our country.

Sources:, “Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan’s family has settled with Dallas hospital,” Justin Moyer, 12 November 2014, Ebola lawsuits would face high hurdles in Texas,” Jessica Dye, Oct. 7, 2014