Health Highlights: Dec. 8, 2014

By on December 8, 2014

Health Highlights: Dec. 8, 2014

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Patient’s Care Appropriate, Says Dallas Doctor Who Missed Ebola Diagnosis

The emergency department doctor who failed to diagnosis Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan — who later died of the disease — said the care he provided was appropriate given what he knew at the time.

“As medical professionals we aspire to perfection in the diagnosis and treatment of all our patients and have regrets when an incorrect diagnosis occurs,” Dr. Joseph Howard Meier wrote in response to written questions from the Dallas Morning News.

“It”s very easy to make a diagnosis of any condition after the patient’s medical evaluation confirms the final diagnosis,” he stated. “Unfortunately, such 20/20 hindsight is not available to medical professionals caring for patients in real time.”

When Duncan arrived at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas in late September, he had abdominal pain and a headache. Meier examined him, and ordered tests. He later diagnosed Duncan with sinusitis, prescribed antibiotics and sent him home.

An ambulance brought Duncan back a few days later. A blood test showed he had Ebola. He died Oct. 8.

Meier described the scrutiny of his handling of the case as “a little bit like getting struck by lightning, but mild in comparison to what Mr. Duncan’s family has gone through in losing a loved one to Ebola,” the Morning News reported.

He said he did not know that Duncan had recently returned from West Africa, even though a nurse made a note of it that first visit. Missing that important piece of patient information was a serious error, many experts say.

“We learned that in medical school as part of your physical diagnosis course: One of the important things you ask somebody is a travel history ‘Have you traveled out of the country lately?’ or, ‘Where have you been lately?'” Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the infectious disease unit at the U.S. National Institutes of Health, said at the National Press Club last month, the Morning News reported.

“I mean, it’s just the natural part of asking them if they smoke or if they are on any medications,” Fauci said.

Other experts noted that early symptoms of Ebola can appear flu-like and making the nation’s first diagnosis of the deadly disease would be difficult.

“It’s not even a needle in a haystack; it’s a needle in a hayfield,” Dr. Ryan Stanton, a representative of the American College of Emergency Physicians and a practicing physician in Lexington, Ky., told the Morning News.


Obamacare Birth Control Coverage Exemption Challenged by Religious Groups

A challenge by religious groups against their birth control coverage exemption under the Affordable Care Act is to be heard in federal court Monday.

The plaintiffs — four Christian colleges in Oklahoma and a group of Colorado nuns — are exempt from covering contraceptives,the Associated Press reported.

However, they argue the exemption is inadequate because they must sign away coverage to another party, which makes them feel they’re involved in providing the contraceptives, thus violating their religious beliefs.

The case will be heard by the 10th Circuit in Denver. Last year, the court ruled that for-profit companies can not provide birth control coverage if it violates their religious beliefs.

In the hearing Monday, federal government lawyers will argue that the exemption does not make religious groups complicit in providing birth control, the AP reported.

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