Failure to diagnose Ebola can raise legal repercussions

In Maryland and elsewhere, there are some basic principles to follow regarding the control and treatment of infectious diseases. Those principles were apparently forgotten in the treatment, or mistreatment, of the Ebola victim who died recently in a hospital. The Centers for Disease Control also failed the test of knowing what to do. The hospital where the treatment occurred made several critical mistakes, including the initial failure to diagnose the virus when the victim came into the emergency room showing signs of Ebola.

Despite the telling case history, and obvious symptoms of the virus, ER personnel sent him home with antibiotics. He returned days later with a full-blown case, but even then the treatment by hospital personnel was careless. It took several hours before he was put into appropriate isolation.

To add to the list of mishaps, the health workers themselves were exposed by the use of inadequate hazmat suits -- their outfits left parts of their body exposed. Furthermore, with little or no training, hospital workers took inadequate precautions in other respects. The result was that at least two healthcare workers from the Texas hospital came down with the virus.

However, the comedy of errors was stretched to its outer limits when one of the healthcare workers at the Texas hospital flew to Ohio to plan a wedding. When she got a fever and called the CDC to ask if she could fly home, she was told yes. These misshapen events lead to potential legal exposure by the hospital, doctors, nurses and even possibly the governmental agencies. Furthermore, the afflicted workers will potentially have claims against the hospital and maybe the CDC.

All of these considerations are in addition to the original case of the man visiting from another continent. When he was sent home after the first visit, his death knell may have been sounded by the failure to diagnose and the lack of immediate treatment. To observers in Maryland and elsewhere, it appears that what occurred was a series of careless acts that seemingly violated not just medical protocol and the obvious severity of the situation, but also the basics of common sense.

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