Family of U.S. Ebola Patient Call for Probe of HospitalHarry R. Weber and Michael Sasso
Relatives of the man who died from the first diagnosed case of Ebola in the U.S. called for an investigation of his hospital care as they expressed sadness and anger over his death.
Thomas Eric Duncan, who died today at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, was initially sent home by medical staff after showing symptoms of the deadly virus that he contracted in Liberia. It was six days after he was admitted for treatment that he received an experimental drug that might have helped him survive, according to the hospital.
“I trust a thorough examination will take place regarding all aspects of his care,” Duncan’s girlfriend, Louise Troh, who remains under quarantine after having direct contact with Duncan, said in a statement issued through Wilshire Baptist Church, where she was baptized in June.
The Texas Department of State Health Services said it is considering an investigation of the hospital where Duncan died, though its current priority is continued tracking of people who had exposure to him while he was sick with Ebola.
“It’s under consideration, but our top focus right now is the contact investigation and monitoring,” said Christine Mann, a spokeswoman for the agency.
Texas Health Presbyterian didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment on the possibility of an investigation and questions about Duncan’s treatment.
Troh said she is “dealing with the sorrow and anger” that Duncan’s son, Kasiah, a 19-year-old college student who lives in San Angelo, Texas, was not able to see his father before he died. Kasiah Duncan visited his father at the hospital yesterday, but was not able to go into his room, Wilshire Baptist pastor George Mason said last night at a church news briefing.
Mason and Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins personally delivered the news of Duncan’s death to Troh, who remains in quarantine because of her contact with Duncan after he fell ill. She reacted with “great shock and despair,” Mason said at a Wednesday press conference at the church. The “three boys” who are in quarantine with Troh because they had contact with Duncan saw his death as a worrisome sign, the pastor said.
They wonder “whether this is the course that their life will take next,” Mason said.
Troh was left with questions about her boyfriend’s care and many what-ifs, including whether he would have lived had he not been turned away from the hospital.
“What if they had taken him right away?” the pastor said she asked.
Duncan’s nephew, Josephus Weeks of Kannapolis, North Carolina, said in an interview conducted via text message today -- before he learned of his uncle’s death -- that Duncan had not been offered blood serum from a recovered Ebola patient, one of the treatments that other Ebola victims have received.
“We requested this form of treatment and it was rejected by the medical staff,” Weeks said. “They said it was unproven.”
Weeks and other family members have been getting updates on Duncan’s status. Weeks learned that Duncan had received the experimental drug developed by Chimerix Inc. before the hospital announced publicly that it had been used.
But the blood serum, wasn’t “a consideration for his treatment plan,” Weeks said. “They didn’t even try any other options but saline, oxygen and water,” he said.
Asked if the family thought the blood serum should have been considered, Weeks said, “We begged and pleaded several times. They say it’s too late in his treatment.”
After he learned of his uncle’s death, Weeks also called for an investigation of the hospital. He said in a text message, “We need all the help we can get.”
Troh, whose 21-day quarantine is scheduled to end Oct. 19, said in her statement that her “deepest sympathies” go out to Duncan’s father and family in Liberia and here in the U.S.
“Eric was a wonderful man who showed compassion toward all,” Troh said.
She added, “I hope that you will keep my family in your prayers. This has dramatically changed our lives, and we will be grieving for a long time. May Eric rest in peace.”