Prosecutors Drop Murder Charges Against Two Hurricane Katrina Nurses

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 4, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Prosecutors Drop Murder Charges Against Two Hurricane Katrina Nurses Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 4
, 2007

New Orleans, LA ( — Two nurses accused of euthanizing patients in the wake of Hurricane Katrina have seen the charges against them dropped by the district attorney in the case. Nurses Lori Budo and Cheri Landry were arrested along with physician Anna Pou on charges that they killed four patients.

All three worked at New Orleans’ Memorial Medical Center at the time of the hurricane.

The three were accused of killing as many as nine patients so they could relinquish their responsibility for patients and flee the hospital as conditions there deteriorated.

John DiGiulio, Landry’s attorney, said he was pleased the charges were dropped and told the Associated Press, "We thought this was how it would end."

"We’re cautiously optimistic that, when it’s all over, no one will be charged — including Dr. Pou," he added.

Budo and Landry were required to testify before a grand jury last month under an agreement that made sure their testimony would not be used against them.

Assistant District Attorney Michael Morales had indicated he would drop the charges against the nurses once they testified. Budo’s charges were refused Friday and Landry’s were refused in late June. They were charged with second-degree murder.

Rick Simmons, Pou’s attorney, told AP he thinks Pou will be found innocent.

"All along, Dr. Pou and the nurses have contended that there was no criminal wrongdoing in connection with their conduct at Memorial Hospital," he said. "We are glad that the charges against the nurses have been dismissed and look forward to a similar result with regard to Dr. Pou."

Louisiana Attorney General Charles Foti launched an investigation into the deaths of 34 patients at the hospital during and after the hurricane. More than 70 witnesses were subpoenaed to testify in the probe.

Foti told CNN the investigation found that four patients were given a lethal dose of morphine and other drugs to hasten their death.

After Foti’s investigation, he turned the case over to Orleans Parish District Attorney Eddie Jordan who let a grand jury determine whether any charges should be sought.

Kris Wartelle, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Charles Foti said the state’s top attorney general didn’t consider the deaths euthanasia but homicides.

National Public Radio, in February 2006, 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.

Meanwhile, 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.