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Family Of Dallas Ebola Victim Settles With Hospital That Treated Him

Josephus Weeks, nephew of Thomas Eric Duncan, and Mai Wureh, sister of Duncan, look on as attorney Les Weisbrod speaks during a news conference in Dallas on Wednesday.
LM Otero
Josephus Weeks, nephew of Thomas Eric Duncan, and Mai Wureh, sister of Duncan, look on as attorney Les Weisbrod speaks during a news conference in Dallas on Wednesday.

The family of Thomas Eric Duncan, the only Ebola patient to have died in the U.S., has reached a settlement with the Dallas hospital that treated him, according to the family's attorney.

Attorney Les Weisbrod said Wednesday that Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas will pay an undisclosed sum to his relatives and create a charitable foundation in Duncan's name. The hospital has also apologized to family members and says it will foot the cost of Duncan's treatment.

The Associated Press says the settlement with Duncan's family will avert a lawsuit.

Health workers at Texas Health Presbyterian initially sent Duncan home with antibiotics after he showed up in the hospital's emergency room in late September with a fever, even after he told staff that he had recently been in West Africa. Days later, he was taken by ambulance to the hospital and diagnosed with Ebola. During his stay, Duncan received the experimental drug brincidofovir. He died at Texas Presbyterian on Oct. 8.

The AP reports that Duncan's nephew Josephus Weeks praised the hospital's handling of its mistakes:

"Duncan's nephew ... credited Presbyterian's officials for moving quickly to settle the case and for acknowledging the hospital's mistakes. 'I believe this facility is an outstanding facility,' Weeks said. 'It's how you recover from an error that makes you who you are.' "

But as The Washington Post notes, Texas Presbyterian initially stood by its treatment of Duncan:

"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.' "

NPR's Rebecca Hersher has reported that many Liberians have wondered if Duncan's death was a result of racism or his economic status.

"In the days after the death of Thomas Eric Duncan — the Liberian man diagnosed with Ebola in Dallas last month ... [there were] many Liberians who told me that case changed the way they see the United States. Many noted how different Duncan's experience in the U.S. health care system seemed from white patients who contracted Ebola, like Dr. Kent Brantly, who recovered from the disease last month, NBC cameraman Ashoka Mukpo, who is making progress in his treatment there, and most recently two nurses who treated Duncan, both of whom are doing well."

Duncan's relatives hope that someday there will be a book or movie made about his life, according to member station KERA in Dallas.

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Sam Sanders is a correspondent and host of It's Been a Minute with Sam Sanders at NPR. In the show, Sanders engages with journalists, actors, musicians, and listeners to gain the kind of understanding about news and popular culture that can only be reached through conversation. The podcast releases two episodes each week: a "deep dive" interview on Tuesdays, as well as a Friday wrap of the week's news.