Thomas Eric Duncan, the first Ebola patient diagnosed on American soil, died at Texas Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas on Oct. 8. On Wednesday, the hospital announced a settlement with Duncan’s family.
“As part of the healing process, we have again extended our sincere apologies to the family and shared our regret that the diagnosis of Ebola Virus Disease was not made at the time of Mr. Duncan’s initial Emergency Department visit,” Texas Presbyterian Hospital said in a statement.
The hospital settled with members of Duncan’s family for an undisclosed sum, as the Associated Press reported, and will also create a charitable organization in his name. The Los Angeles Times pointed out that “Texas caps malpractice awards for pain and suffering against a physician at $250,000 and damages against hospitals at $250,000 per hospital.”
“I believe this facility is an outstanding facility,” Weeks said. “And we as humans, we are not perfect. We make errors. But it is how you recover from your errors that make you who you are.”
Weeks, who will help administer the charitable trust, said Texas Presbyterian took the initiative to do right by Duncan’s family.
“I also want to thank Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital for stepping up and owning up to their mistakes and doing the right thing to make sure it never happens again,” he said. “That’s an honorable thing to do and I respect them for that.” He added he would not hesitate to seek treatment at the hospital.
But as the hospital apologized and settled with Duncan’s family, it objected to widely published details of Duncan’s treatment and death — many reported by the Associated Press.
According to the hospital, the AP was wrong when it reported Duncan, during his initial visit to Texas Presbyterian, told hospital staff he had traveled to West Africa before being sent home with antibiotics.
“According to the medical record, Mr. Duncan told the staff ‘Africa,’ not ‘West Africa,'” Wendell Watson, Texas Presbyterian’s director of public relations, wrote in an e-mail to The Washington Post.
Texas Presbyterian also tried to qualify one of the more striking facts about Duncan’s initial visit to the hospital — that he had a fever of 103 degrees.
“Thomas Eric Duncan’s temperature spiked to 103 degrees during the hours of his initial visit to an emergency room — a fever that was flagged with an exclamation point in the hospital’s record-keeping system, his medical records show,” the AP wrote on Oct. 10.
Watson said Duncan’s fever did reach 103, but was lower when he arrived and when he was released.
“Mr. Duncan’s temperature when he presented to the Emergency Department Sept. 25 was 100.1 degrees, NOT 103 degrees,” he wrote. “It spiked to 103 but then returned to a lower temperature before he was sent home after approximately four hours of examination and treatment.”
Duncan’s travel history and temperature level are significant. Before he showed up at Texas Presbyterian, an Ebola guidance from the Centers for Disease Control advised health-care providers to watch for patients who had traveled to areas with “active” Ebola transmission and had temperatures above 101.5 degrees.
Watson also said he hoped the record would be set straight.
“The hospital has admitted its mistakes,” he wrote. “I urge you to correct AP’s mistakes in your future stories.”
The AP and reporters who wrote the stories Watson challenged were not immediately available for comment.
Here is the full text of the hospital’s statement:
Nov. 12, 2014
TEXAS HEALTH PRESBYTERIAN HOSPITAL DALLAS AMICABLY RESOLVES MATTERS WITH FAMILY OF THOMAS ERIC DUNCAN
Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas today announced that it has amicably resolved all matters with the family of Thomas Eric Duncan.
We know that this has been a terribly sad, difficult and trying time for Mr. Duncan’s family and friends, and they will continue to be in the hearts and prayers of the entire Texas Health Presbyterian family.
As part of the healing process, we have again extended our sincere apologies to the family and shared our regret that the diagnosis of Ebola Virus Disease was not made at the time of Mr. Duncan’s initial Emergency Department visit. The hospital is honoring Mr. Duncan’s memory by facilitating the creation of the Texas Health Dallas Thomas Eric Duncan Memorial Fund for the express purpose of providing assistance to victims of Ebola in Africa.
Texas Health Dallas greatly appreciates the acknowledgment by the family’s attorney that Mr. Duncan’s inpatient care was excellent. We are grateful to reach this point of reconciliation and healing for all involved.
Today’s resolution with the Duncan family serves as an example of the common-sense Texas laws that allow discussions to take place immediately and be resolved quickly. As a result, healthcare organizations, patients and family members are able to resolve matters fairly and equitably.