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Ebola In New York: What Legal Issues Are In Play?

New York is gripped by the news concerning Dr. Craig Spencer’s recent Ebola diagnosis. The story has spurred concern and fear, but it seems that New York City and Bellevue Hospital Center were prepared. If the city and hospital weren’t ready to handle an Ebola case, would there be liability issues?

The recent Ebola case in Dallas provides an illustration of what can happen when hospitals aren’t prepared for an outbreak. A man who had recently traveled to Africa, and shared that information with doctors, was not diagnosed with Ebola when he presented himself at the hospital. They misdiagnosed him and sent him home. After the error, the infected patient died and two hospital nurses were diagnosed with the deadly virus. At first glance, someone might think this is an easy malpractice/wrongful death lawsuit.

However, the victim’s family would need to show that he would not have died but for the hospital’s negligence. Since Ebola has a worldwide fatality rate of 50 percent, it could be a tough argument to make (although the U.S. currently has an Ebola-survival rate of 80 percent on a very small sample size).

Some Ebola lawsuits may very well be filed in Dallas, as the hospital was ill-prepared for Ebola despite a well-known pandemic in Africa.

Let us all hope that Ebola remains a nonissue in New York courts. Our thoughts are with Dr. Spencer and his family.

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