Who's responsible for the death of Thomas Eric Duncan?

The SE Texas Record Oct. 27, 2014, 3:27pm

Believe it or not, there was a time, before television, when there was no such thing as an instant replay. If a touchdown or an out was called, it stayed a touchdown or an out.

For better or worse, there was no way to review a referee's or an umpire's decision, and thus no acceptable way to overturn it. 

Even after the instant replay became feasible, there was significant opposition to its implementation, and not just from refs and umps. Many team and league leaders, sports writers, fans, and players objected for various legitimate reasons – some out of concern that constant interruptions for review would adversely affect the tempo of the game, some for fear that frequent reversals would undermine respect for officials and discourage them from making tough calls, etc.

The instant replay eventually gained acceptance and is undoubtedly here to stay, but there are still some who think we were better off without it.

We have instant replays of sorts in the real world, too, and second-guessing is a favorite American pastime, but – unlike in sports – there isn't always a chance to correct a bad call or do the play over. Some times mistakes are made that can't be unmade, and trying to establish responsibility may be impossible or pointless.

The death of Thomas Eric Duncan from Ebola may be one of these times.

It would be easy enough to blame Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital for failing to diagnose the disease on Duncan's first visit to the emergency room, but there's no guarantee that he would have survived even with an earlier diagnosis. Plus, there's plenty of blame to go around, starting with Duncan himself.

Did he not know that he'd been exposed to the disease in Africa? Did he and his relatives give hospital staff any reason to believe that he might be infected?

Duncan's sister and nephew say they may sue the hospital, but maybe the hospital should sue them instead.


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