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Race to develop Ebola vaccine raises medical malpractice risk

There are many possible reasons why certain diseases capture the country's attention, whether it is the West Nile virus, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or the disease that is currently dominating national headlines: the Ebola virus.

Each of these diseases contains elements that warrant close attention, including the serious consequences to those affected by the disease, the absence of answers as to its source, how it is transmitted from person to person and most worrisome of all the perception that there may be no certain treatment or cure.

Many pharmaceutical and medical research companies are feverishly working to produce a vaccine or some form of medication to help those already affected by diseases like Ebola, but also to prevent further spread of the virus. This is important because with the free flow of travel, it is possible that a Louisiana resident could contract the virus while visiting West Africa and unknowingly carry the disease back to Louisiana.

As much as these companies are working to save people's lives and secure their long term health, the alarm of such a virus should not give reason to circumvent the procedures and control processes put in place to ensure that medication and treatment does not do more harm than good.

People can be quick to demand that experimental drugs be administered to desperate patients before those drugs are property tested. When a doctor, nurse or hospital blindly treats a patient with medication that is not approved by federal and state agencies responsible for ensuring the medication is safe to use, they may be committing medical malpractice.

This type of medical error, although motivated by good intentions, may still provide the patient or the patient's estate the right to demand compensation from the possibly negligent physician, nurse or hospital.

Source: USA Today, "Company puts sole focus on Ebola drug," Laura Ungar, Oct. 13, 2014

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