FOR MORE DETAILS ON THE SETTLEMENT, SEE THE UPDATE: “Dallas hospital settles with family of Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan, disputes media accounts of his treatment”
By the time Thomas Eric Duncan was diagnosed with Ebola at Texas Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas on Sept. 28, he had already been sent home once from the hospital with antibiotics. Though he told staff he had traveled to West Africa, they didn’t think it necessary to admit him.
After returning home to his fiance’s family — which would later endure a 21-day quarantine — Duncan was brought back to the hospital in an ambulance after vomiting on the sidewalk in front of his apartment building. After exposing two nurses to Ebola, he died Oct. 8.
Now, after alleging that Texas Presbyterian had not done right by Duncan, his family has reached what its attorneys called a “resolution” with the health-care facility.
According to a statement issued by the law offices of Miller Weisbrod, Duncan’s family will hold a press conference on Wednesday morning “regarding a resolution they have reached on behalf of the children and parents of the deceased with Texas Health Resources and all related entities,” as WFAA 8 reported.
Unlike some other Ebola patients provided state-of-the-art experimental treatments and swept to advanced medical facilities like the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Duncan was poor. He had no insurance. And he was black.
“We asked. We begged. We pleaded. I even offered my own blood, even though it wouldn’t do anything for him,” Duncan’s nephew Josephus Weeks told the Associated Press last month. “We requested everything we could think of to save Eric. They said no.”
One health-care expert questioned the choice of an experimental drug used to treat Duncan — and the delay in providing it.
“The guys who do what I do, working in this field, find it puzzling,” Thomas Geisbert, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Texas at Galveston consulted in two U.S. Ebola cases, told the AP. “It kind of came out of left field. I think the jury is still out on why this would have any activity against Ebola.”
In an interview with CNN, Weeks linked Duncan’s allegedly subpar treatment with his race.
“Had [he] been another color, he probably would be living today, he would have survived it,” Weeks said. “And that’s what’s really hurting me the most: … They treated him the way they did because of the color of [his] skin.” He added: “You stand a chance if you’re white, but not if you’re black.”
After Duncan died, talk of legal action came almost immediately. On Oct. 10, a family representative said Duncan’s kin would “probably” file suit.
“If you went to the hospital right now, and your temperature was 103 degrees, no doctor would send you home,” said Saymendy Lloyd, a friend of the family, as the Hill reported. ” … If left to the community, there would be a lawsuit right now.”
Even the NIH piled on Texas Presbyterian.
“Clearly there was a misstep early on when he wasn’t diagnosed immediately,” said Anthony Fauci, director of the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Speaking about Duncan, he did add: “I just can’t believe that he was deliberately treated in a less well way than others.”
After Duncan’s death, Texas Presbyterian defended its care. In a statement, the hospital said he was treated “with the same high level of attention and care that would be given any patient, regardless of nationality or ability to pay for care.” But the hospital also acknowledged that it failed to properly diagnose Duncan when he first showed up and failed to communicate to doctors the fact that he had been in Liberia.
“Unfortunately, in our initial treatment of Mr. Duncan, despite our best intentions and a highly skilled medical team, we made mistakes,” Daniel Varga, chief clinical officer, said in a statement on Oct. 16. “We did not correctly diagnose his symptoms as those of Ebola. We are deeply sorry.”
Yet some questioned whether Duncan’s family would have any legal recourse. As Seth Chandler, the director of the University of Houston Law Center, put it to NBC: “It’s not like we have a magic cure for Ebola.”