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Suit targets hospital for failure to diagnose tuberculosis

Hospitals in New Mexico and elsewhere are supposed to be places for sick people to get well. But what happens when a sick person is not diagnosed and the hospital exposes others to his or her potentially fatal illness? Such an issue is at the center of a class-action lawsuit that has been filed against a hospital in another state. The plaintiffs claim that the hospital's failure to diagnose a patient with tuberculosis put staff, volunteers, patients and visitors at risk.

The incident occurred over the summer. The patient with tuberculosis primarily stayed in the neonatal intensive care unit, though she was reportedly allowed to walk around without a mask. However, her respiratory therapist, who was exposed to the disease, potentially spread it while making rounds. The woman and her twin newborn daughters later died from tuberculosis. Her husband has filed a separate action against the hospital.

According to one lawyer for this case, at least 15 staff members involved in the lawsuit were later found to have latent tuberculosis. The disease became active in at least two cases. The plaintiffs have not yet determined what amount they will seek in damages.

As this case demonstrates, failure to diagnose what can be a deadly illness could have a devastating impact on many people. Those in New Mexico who find themselves in a similar situation may wish to review our state's medical malpractice laws. Pursuing a civil action may help affected parties recover damages, but most importantly, it can serve as a reminder to doctors and medical facilities that they have an obligation to do everything they can to maintain public health and safety.

Source:, Hospital TB lawsuit involves employees, patients, volunteers, Doug Johnson and Craig Huber, Nov. 21, 2013

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