What Ebola Failures Reveal About American Hospitals

When patients are harmed by medical care, the traditional response of health systems is to “deny and defend.”


Hospitals deny they are responsible for the harm, and when pressed, they defend their providers’ conduct throughout a protracted and arduous legal process. According to a recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, hospital administrators say that this approach minimizes their liability.


Sometimes, when errors are egregious or there is intense media scrutiny, as in the case of the mis-diagnosis and death of Texas Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan, hospitals eventually apologize and make financial settlements. But without media attention, routine harm resulting from errors still typically receives the “deny and defend” response.


Such behavior has failed to make the U.S. health care system safer or more humane for patients and families. The good news is better alternatives may now be available.



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