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Peace Corps agrees to pay $750,000 to household of volunteer who died after medical doctors misdiagnosed her malaria, regulation agency says

The Peace Corps has agreed to pay $750,000 to the household of a 24-year-old volunteer from Illinois who died in 2018 in East Africa after the company’s medical doctors misdiagnosed a case of malariaa regulation agency introduced Tuesday.

Bernice Heiderman of Inverness, Illinois, died in January 2018 on the island nation of Comoros after texting her mom that the native Peace Corps physician wasn’t taking critically her complaints of dizziness, nausea, fever and fatigue, mentioned Adam Dinnell, a companion on the Houston-based regulation agency of Schiffer Hicks Johnson PLLC.

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Bernice Heiderman

Nationwide Peace Corps Affiliation


The physician informed her to drink water and take aspirin, mentioned Dinnell, whose agency filed a federal lawsuit for damages in Chicago on behalf of the Heiderman household.

The girl’s mom, Julie Heiderman, informed The Related Press in a phone interview the household feels that with the settlement, the Peace Corps has taken some accountability for her daughter’s loss of life and realized it had handled the household “horrifically.”

The company speaks of its “sophisticated medical care” for volunteers when in actual fact “they hired someone who didn’t recognize malaria,” she mentioned.

“The Peace Corps was awful,” she mentioned, refusing to talk to the household with out its legal professional being current and never returning the physique to the household till days after prolonged household had gathered in Illinois for the funeral.

Her daughter had needed to hitch the Peace Corps for the reason that time she was in junior excessive, Heiderman mentioned.

“She felt very patriotic about serving her country in the way she chose,” the mom mentioned.

The Peace Corps issued a press release saying it “continues to mourn the tragic loss of Volunteer Bernice Heiderman.”

“She was a remarkable Volunteer who was admired by her students and community in Comoros. . . . The health and safety of our Volunteers is of the utmost importance to our agency, and we remain committed to ensuring that every Volunteer has a safe and successful experience,” the assertion mentioned.

Comoros is within the Indian Ocean between Mozambique and the island nation of Madagascar.

A autopsy take a look at revealed Bernice Heiderman died of malaria, Dinnell mentioned. An investigation by the Peace Corps’ inspector common concluded the physician and the company’s head medical officer in Washington ignored directives and did not comply with normal protocols, reminiscent of ordering a easy blood take a look at that may have detected malaria, which is definitely treatable with treatment, he mentioned.

The inspector common’s assessment additionally discovered that Heiderman had not been following her required malaria suppression treatment regime for a number of months previous to her loss of life.

Malaria is most typical in tropical climates, placing practically half the worldwide inhabitants in danger, based on the World Well being Group. WHO estimates there have been about 247 million instances of malaria worldwide in 2021, and 691,000 deaths. The overwhelming majority of instances and deaths occurred in Africa.

Based on a 2018 assertion by the Peace Corps after her loss of life,  Heiderman was an schooling volunteer in Comoros, educating English on the public junior highschool in the neighborhood of Salimani, on the island of Grande Comore. She additionally began a Junior Explorer’s Membership and labored to safe funds to conduct area journeys to the Nationwide Museum of Comoros, a botanical backyard and different historic websites on the island, the Peace Corps mentioned.

Based on the Nationwide Peace Corps AffiliationHeiderman was one among 30 volunteers who died throughout service over the previous decade earlier than her loss of life.

“If we’re to honor the work she was doing, we must, for starters, renew a commitment to ensure that the Peace Corps does better when addressing the health needs of volunteers — particularly when it comes to the treatment of known, familiar diseases with remedies,” Nationwide Peace Corps Affiliation President Glenn Blumhorst wrote.

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