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What does U.S. Ebola death tell us about medical error?

Ebola. It's a word that is on the tongues of nearly everyone in the world right now. The spread of the disease in West Africa has killed thousands. And as nearly everyone in New York has surely heard, this week, a man in Dallas became the first victim to succumb to Ebola in the United States.

The rising concern over the disease is not surprising. According to one doctor, writing an opinion piece for CNN earlier this month, the virus has about a 50 percent fatality rate. There is no known cure. 

U.S. officials are reportedly on record as insisting that the health care system in this country is prepared to deal with the problem. Reports on National Public Radio and in other outlets say that among the initiatives the government has announced in reaction to the situation is stepped up screenings at five of the busiest airports.

As passengers from the most affected West African countries enter the country through those airports, they are being taken to special areas to be screened for the illness. They're being asked questions about possible their possible exposure to Ebola and having their temperature's taken.

As the doctor writing for CNN observes, those screenings can only do so much. They didn't spot the man in Dallas as he entered the country. But what may be more troublesome is what experts describe as medical errors made by the hospital staff where the man sought treatment.

The opinion writer notes that  it appears that while an intake nurse knew the man was from Liberia, that information wasn't "fully communicated" to everyone in the emergency room. The patient was subsequently examined and sent home, only to return days later with symptoms that were beyond possible treatment.

The specifics of how things played out in the ER in this case are still unclear. It does seem, though, that many believe that something failed in the delivery of a proper standard of care and that the death in this case resulted from medical error.

Where such is the case, victims would do well to seek out experienced, skilled legal counsel prepared to effectively pursue a malpractice claim if one is warranted. We consider ourselves to be just that. If you have such an issue, we invite you to contact us for a discussion of your circumstances.

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