Why suing physicians over errors in Ebola diagnosis will be difficult in Texas

Texas tort reform gives emergency department physicians an extra layer of protection in medical malpractice lawsuits, which will make it difficult for successful cases to be brought against Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas over errors in Ebola diagnosis, according to an NBC Bay Area report.

Thomas Eric Duncan was the first patient diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S., and he later died as a result of the virus. After experiencing some symptoms of Ebola, Mr. Duncan went to Texas Health Presbyterian, where he was misdiagnosed and sent home only to later return far sicker than he was when he first visited the hospital's ED.

Even though Texas Health Presbyterian publicly apologized for the initial misdiagnosis, Texas tort reform would present challenges for Mr. Duncan's family if they decided to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the physicians or nurses who treated Mr. Duncan on the day of his misdiagnosis, according to the report.

In many states, a plaintiff must prove negligence to be successful in a medical malpractice case. However, in Texas the burden of proof is higher, and plaintiffs must prove any ED negligence was "willful and wanton." This means plaintiffs must show the physician's conduct was intentional or that the negligent act was committed under circumstances exhibiting a reckless disregard for the safety of others, which is a difficult burden to meet.

Along with providing extra protection to ED physicians and nurses, Texas has a $250,000 noneconomic damages cap, which applies in almost all cases, according to the report.

More articles on Ebola:

Physician tests positive for Ebola in New York City: 5 things to know
Dr. Karen DeSalvo leaves ONC to join Ebola response team
S&P: Ebola adds healthcare costs but won't lead to rating actions for now

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