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Delayed medical diagnosis ended in tragedy

Failing to detect a condition may mean delayed treatment. Unfortunately, a recent story demonstrates that some patients may not be able to afford that luxury of time. 

The first diagnosis of the Ebola virus within American borders -- a 42-year-old man from Texas -- has ended in tragedy and questions concerning the man’s care. In fact, there may have been multiple errors.

The man was actually discharged after his first visit to a local hospital emergency room. That only allowed his condition to worsen, as evidenced by his admittance two days later via ambulance. In addition, some specialists have questioned why the man wasn’t immediately prescribed an experimental drug called brincidofovir.

According to the man’s surviving family, doctors at the facility told them that it was too late in the man’s treatment. For the ten-day period following the emergence of Ebola symptoms, the man was treated only with saline, oxygen and water.

Regardless of the reason offered for the failure to diagnose, patients can suffer serious or even life-threatening injuries in the elapsed time interval. This story proves that harm can result even if only a few days pass before the misdiagnosis is corrected. In other examples, the delay might contribute to a patient’s medical complications, permanent injuries, fewer treatment options or a decreased recovery or survival rate.

In this example, what may seem highly negligent to a civil jury in a medical malpractice trial is the failure of hospital staff to remedy their initial error through quick, decisive actions. They failed to administer the brincidofovir drug until ten days after the man had fallen ill -- when his kidneys had already started shutting down. With the help of an experienced medical malpractice attorney, the man’s surviving family members might be able to hold the facility and its staff accountable.

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

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