The Memorial Killings: What Katrina Doctors Did

Report details how staff responded to agonizing situation
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 28, 2009 10:09 AM CDT
Dr. Anna Pou pauses to compose herself at a news conference regarding a grand jury's decision not to indict her on murder charges, July 24, 2007, in New Orleans.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the staff at one New Orleans hospital faced a torturous dilemma: For critically ill patients who would have to be carried down as many as 8 flights of stairs and back up to the roof of a garage, evacuation seemed impossible. With rumors of rioters preparing to attack and police ordering everyone who could go into boats, the remaining staff decided euthanasia was more humane than abandonment, writes Sheri Fink for ProPublica, in a piece reconstructing the sequence of events and the decision-making.

Evidence indicates that Memorial Medical Center staff, led by Dr. Anna Pou, injected at least 17 of the sickest, least mobile patients with fatal doses of morphine and midazolam. Pou has not admitted purposely administering fatal doses, but other doctors are frank with Fink about their decision to end DNR and other hopeless patients' lives rather than abandon them. From documents, Fink reconstructs the stories of many patients—from frail elderly women to a 380-pound man nowhere near death—and how they met their ends.