Hospitals Consider Refusing Ebola Patients Over Infection Fears

Font Size:

U.S. doctors and hospitals are beginning to wonder whether they should refuse to care for Ebola patients when intervention is unlikely to help, given the proven danger of catching the virus, Reuters reports

Thomas Duncan, the first person in the U.S. to have Ebola, received dialysis and intubation at Texas Health Presbyterian in Dallas, but died from the disease. The infection of two nurses who cared for him, despite some level of protective equipment, has some medical institutions wondering whether they should be asking their doctors and nurses to care for Ebola pateints at all.

Officials from three hospital systems told Reuters that they’re debating whether they should withhold certain individual procedures that involve extensive contact from Ebola patients, or whether they can allow individual doctors to decide whether they’re willing to intervene.

Reuters also claims that medical ethics experts are garnering more questions than usual about when it’s ethical for doctors to refuse to care for patients because of the risk of infection.

The administration’s current Ebola policy will send specialized ‘Ebola response teams’ to any hospital with a verified Ebola patient within hours. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention chief Tom Frieden admitted earlier this month that the agency should have sent more infection control advisers to Dallas immediately upon learning that Duncan was suffering from Ebola. (RELATED: CDC: Sure Wish We’d Have Gone In Right After First Ebola Diagnosis) 

But even so, not all hospital and staff are trained in protocols to avoid Ebola and those without training or proper equipment may be at higher risk when performing extensive or invasive procedures on infectious patients. (RELATED: Report: Texas Ebola Nurses Had No Protective Gear For Two Days)

The CDC is working on establishing clinical guidelines for how to provide dialysis for Ebola patients.

“This is another example of how this 21st century viral threat has pulled us back into the 19th century,” University of Michigan medical historian Dr. Howard Markel told Reuters.

Follow Sarah on Twitter