Tue, 18 Jul 2006 20:18:37

Louisiana Attorney General Charles Foti announced today that a Memorial (Baptist) Hospital doctor and 2 nurses have been charged with second degree murder for “mercy killing” in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The usually mild mannered Dr. A has been fuming about this all day: the patients involved were terminally ill and were being legally administered doses of morphine that would kill the average person reading this. Why? The worse the pain the more morphine you need; so the doses must be increased to properly relieve the pain.

My understanding of the case is that the patients involved were in an hospice program which means that they were near death before the storm. The hospital’s generator failed rather quickly post-K so these patients were in for a very painful and horrible death because of the conditions. Additionally the doctor who brought these allegations to public attention is a publicity hound whose story has changed 97 times since he appeared on CNN last fall.

No crimes were committed at Memorial Hospital last fall. The doctors and nurses did the best they could in truly horrible conditions. They were stranded at that hospital for nearly a week and inevitably some of the sickest patients died. It’s a tragedy but whatever happened at the hospital no crimes were committed.

These charges are both a miscarriage of justice and a misallocation of public resources. Mr. Foti claimed at one point to be investigating the Corps and the Levee board to see if there was any criminal culpability for the 1 200+ people who died because of their negligence. What happened to that investigation Mr. Foti?

There’s been a lot of discussion of the health care crisis in NOLA post-K. These specious charges will have a chilling effect on the practice of medicine in this area. The health care system here is already hemorrhaging doctors and nurses. And pressing these charges is likely to accelerate the departure of the experienced doctors and nurses we need to care for us. Shame on you Mr. Foti.


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