Doctor, Nurse Arrested for Euthanasia Deaths After Hurricane Katrina

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 18, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Doctor, Nurse Arrested for Euthanasia Deaths After Hurricane Katrina Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 18, 2006

New Orleans, LA ( — A doctor and two nurses who worked at a hospital in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina have been arrested on charges that they were responsible for the euthanasia deaths of four patients. The Louisiana attorney general’s office says they gave four patients lethal drugs that took their lives.

Kris Wartelle, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Charles Foti, told the Associated Press that the three are not considered to have euthanized patients, but are being charged with murder.

"We’re not calling this euthanasia. We’re not calling this mercy killings. This is second-degree murder," Wartelle said.

Dr. Anna Pou and two nurses at Memorial Medical Center were arrested for killing the patients "by administering or causing to be administered lethal doses of morphine sulphate (morphine) and midazolam (Versed)," according to the arrest warrant.

Pou’s lawyer, Rick Simmons, disputed the charges in comments to AP, saying, "She is innocent. This whole thing is unfair."

Foti launched an investigation into the deaths of 34 patients at the hospital during and after the hurricane, which ravaged the city. More than 70 witnesses were subpoenaed to testify in the probe.

New Orleans Coroner Frank Minyard previously said it would be difficult through an autopsy to determine if a patient had been given a morphine overdose.

The many bodies of patients were badly decomposed by the time authorities were able to remove them from the hospital two weeks after the hurricane. They could have also been given appropriate amounts of morphine to ease their pain and it would be difficult to discern the difference

National Public Radio, in February, published papers from the investigation that indicated that staff members had a discussion about long-term care patients on the seventh floor and what to do about them. Three staff members told the attorney general that the plan was to leave no living patients behind and "a lethal dose would be administered" for patients deemed unable to be saved.

One doctor, Bryant King, told CNN in October that he overheard other conversations.

King refused to identify the people involved in the discussions and later said he never heard them talk about euthanasia, only "ending suffering." Yet the tenor of their discussion led him to believe they were planning to end the lives of patients they deemed beyond hope.

"It appeared they were proceeding with that plan," said Dr. King.

But Dr. Pou had told Baton Rouge television station WBRZ in November that "There were some patients there who were critically ill who, regardless of the storm, had the orders of do not resuscitate. In other words, if they died, to allow them to die naturally, and to not use heroic methods to resuscitate them."

"We all did everything in our power to give the best treatment that we could to the patients in the hospital to make them comfortable," Pou said then.

Cheri Landry and Lori Budo were the two nurses arrested and they were released on their own recognizance, AP reported.

Angela McManus told AP that her 70 year-old mother was in the hospital at the time recovering from a blood infection and appeared in fine condition when relatives were told to leave the hospital. She died later that day.

"At least now I’ll be able to get some answers," McManus said. "For months, I haven’t known what happened to my mom. I need some answers just to be able to function."