Louisiana Legislation Responds to Hurricane Katrina Euthanasia Concerns

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 19, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Louisiana Legislation Responds to Hurricane Katrina Euthanasia Concerns

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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
June 19
, 2008

Baton Rouge, LA (LifeNews.com) — Members of the Louisiana legislature are looking at potential bills to respond to concerns that doctors and nurses may have euthanized patients in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The bills would protect the medical professionals from lawsuits and prosecutions.

Four patients were alleged to have been killed via euthanasia in the wake of the storm and two nurses, Cheri Landry and Lori Budo.

Both saw their charges dismissed when they agreed to testify before a grand jury.

Ultimately, the office of former Attorney General Charles Foti confirmed no charges would be filed against Dr. Anna Pou either when a grand jury refused to return any indictments against her.

Now, lawmakers have approved three bills they’ve sent to Gov. Bobby Jindal and they have the support of the state medical association.

"When Foti arrested Anna Pou, it sent a chill through the entire professional community," Dr. Russell Klein, president of the Louisiana State Medical Society, told the Associated Press. "No one — especially those who knew her well — could believe for a minute what Foti was suggesting happened."

Two of the bills limit potential lawsuits in such natural disaster situations and a third would let prosecutors call in a panel of medical experts to review the situation and determine if a doctor or nurse engaged in euthanasia.

Dr. Kevin Jordan, medical director at Touro Infirmary, told AP the bills are too weak because prosecutors have the ultimate decision on whether to call a medical review panel or follow its recommendation.

Just before the decision not to charge Pou, hundreds of New Orleans residents protested against the investigation. Pou was not at the rally, but Budo and Landry were in the crowd.

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

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.

National Public Radio, in February 2006, published papers from the investigation that indicated 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, later told CNN 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 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.

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