New Orleans Euthanasia

A report in the Daily Mail claims that doctors stranded in New Orleans hospitals after Katrina hit decided to give some patients lethal doses of morphine, rather than watching them die in agony. A few bloggers are suggesting this report has all the markings of an urban legend, given that it's based on only one identified source. If so, it wouldn't be the first urban legend emerging from the disaster. However, the recent discovery of 44 dead bodies in a New Orleans hospital would seem to add credibility to this report.

Death Health/Medicine

Posted on Tue Sep 13, 2005


My partner arrived home from Honolulu on Sunday. He told me that day that someone there (last week) had told him of euthanasia in New Orleans hospitals and that the US media were keeping it quiet. I don't know who told him but it would definitely have been before the Mail On Sunday had hit the stands.
Posted by Trotsky  in  Australia  on  Tue Sep 13, 2005  at  04:38 PM
If people in Honolulu heard about it before people in Louisiana (or even here in Dallas, where thousands of evacuees are staying), that's a pretty good sign it's an urban legend.
Like any good urban legend, it's not totally impossible, of course, but it seems extremely unlikely. Most doctors I know would wait more than a day or two before deciding to off all their critically ill patients.

No doubt many hospitals did have dead bodies accumulating-- people die in hospitals every day, and with the storm and the flood, the hospitals had nowhere to send the bodies for a while. But it seems to me you'd want to see the autopsies before you start crying murder (or even euthanasia).

Aren't the horrors of Katrina bad enough without people embellishing them?
Posted by Big Gary in Dallas  in  Dallas, Texas  on  Tue Sep 13, 2005  at  04:46 PM
Also, if the doctors had plenty of morphine, which this story seems to presume, there was no reason for anyone to die in agony. They might not have been able to cure the patients, but they could at least control their pain.
Posted by Big Gary in Dallas  in  Dallas, Texas  on  Tue Sep 13, 2005  at  04:48 PM
I agree. My 'urban myth bulls***' antennae did start tingling as he told me.
Posted by Trotsky  in  Australia  on  Tue Sep 13, 2005  at  05:08 PM
I don't know. I'm not totally ready to dismiss it as an urban legend, given the conditions those doctors were facing: the heat, anarchy, lack of water and electricity, etc. It does seem possible.
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Tue Sep 13, 2005  at  08:52 PM
Is euthanasia illegal in LA?
If it is surely a doctor wouldn't own up to it as it would be easily confirmed by an autopsy. I'm sure any family member of these poor souls would kick up a fuss about it if they'd heard about the story.
Posted by Trotsky  in  Australia  on  Tue Sep 13, 2005  at  09:25 PM
...had told him of euthanasia in New Orleans hospitals and that the US media were keeping it quiet.

Really? Because it has been in the papers over here since the weekend.
Posted by Boo  in  The Land of the Haggii...  on  Wed Sep 14, 2005  at  03:21 AM
It's true! It's in the NY Times, and everything in the NY Times is true!!!!

(You'll have to copy and paste)
Posted by Cathy  in  South Dakota  on  Wed Sep 14, 2005  at  07:36 AM
I read an article regarding this and it didn't necessarily sound like "Euthenasia" to the full extent, it more sounded like the doctors knew which patients were going to die considering the circumstances and then gave them extra morphine and let them be to die in peace.
Posted by LukeP  on  Wed Sep 14, 2005  at  12:28 PM
The NY Times article doesn't say the doctors did something to make those people die; it only says that people died.
Posted by Big Gary in Dallas  in  Dallas, Texas  on  Wed Sep 14, 2005  at  04:31 PM
What makes this story sound like an Urban Legend is the rape angle, ie: "We decided to kill the critical patients with morphine overdoses to spare them the much worse fate of being raped to death by rampaging black people."

Wow, it's like a deleted scene from 'Birth of A Nation'!

You've heard how the crisis in New Orleans has laid bare the racial tensions in American society? This is how. The situation on the face of it (tens of thousands of blacks too poor to leave suffer the most) smacks of racism, and then all the conservative wags who pipe up and try to deny any racism contribute comments that, because they are based on their own ideas, only sound evne MORE racist. "Good riddance, it's their own fault, they're raping innocent white women, they're using their debit cards to buy beer," etc. They pull facts out of the air to confirm their own prejudices, regardless of truth.

Plus, this is an article from a British paper, and anything the British press prints about New Orleans should be taken with a shaker of salt, as they have been falling all over themselves to print questionable but sensational stories. Remember the one about the rescuers who would not rescue the women because they wouldn't show their tits? Two weeks ago, printed in a British paper, the story contributed by an alleged 'British tourist' who just happened to bring his family on a vacation to a hurricane three days before it hit. Riiiight.
Posted by Barghest  on  Wed Sep 14, 2005  at  07:49 PM
The article does not say if the people were killed by morphine overdoses. I did hear something on the radio about a doctor that gave patients in pain a standard dose of morphine, and if they were still in pain, a second dose. It sounded like the DJ was reading it straight from something, but I don't remember the source.

The article made it sound like authorities were already aware of it.
Posted by Maegan  in  Tampa, FL - USA  on  Thu Sep 15, 2005  at  05:42 AM
Baghest, you're right, of course; the typical British newspaper is a little less reliable and responsible than the Weekly World News.

However, nothing the British media could say could possibly be as racist as Barbara Bush's recent public comments:

'"What I
Posted by Big Gary in Dallas  in  Dallas, Texas  on  Thu Sep 15, 2005  at  05:08 PM
I'm surprised Barb even bothered to "worry her beautiful mind" about the black people at all. Shouldn't she be too busy counting the extra money from the huge tax break her son gave the richest 1% of Americans, at the expense of our children's future?

I do just love it when Barb talks nowadays--she doesn't have handlers and focus groups to polish up her words, so when she speaks, she lays the evil of the Republicans bare for all to see, with no sugar on top.

Maybe Barb and Pat Robertson should go on a speaking tour together? That would certainly make sure things go the right way in '06. All the liberal celebrities should pitch in and make this happen.
Posted by Barghest  on  Thu Sep 15, 2005  at  06:54 PM
Yes, yes!
Barbara and Pat, Together Again!
Who wouldn't buy a ticket to see that?

First Barbara rants about how trashy she thinks all the Democrats are, then Pat calls for their assassination.

Then all the audience members put sheets over their heads and march around the auditorium carrying torches. Just like in the good old Reagan days!
Posted by Big Gary in Dallas  in  Dallas, Texas  on  Fri Sep 16, 2005  at  10:45 AM
Whoa, what does this have to do with blacks? NOTHING. Geez you all get SO worked up. Its about whether or not doctors sped up the process with dying patients.
Yes morphine can help you die painlessly. It also helps you die. When terminal patients are at the end of life (within hours) the doses of morphine needed to free them from pain also bring death faster. It would totally make sense for doctors in an emergency situation to give another shot of morphine to some dying patients - rather then let them die of thirst, or lack of oxygen, or alone and screaming in pain.
We're not talking about doctors killing otherwise living patients. We're talking about people who were dying anyway, and doctors doing what they could in a crisis to ensure that death was painless and humane, even if it meant death came a few hours sooner.
Posted by chyca  on  Tue Sep 20, 2005  at  08:37 AM
The conditions these doctors and patients were having to suffer in laster more than a few days. They were there for quite some time. There was no electricity, food, or water. There didn't seem to be any rescue in sight, either. I wouldn't doubt that a few of the doctors did lose their minds to some extent, and overdosed a few of the really bad off patients.
Posted by Rachel  on  Tue Jan 10, 2006  at  10:53 AM
As the News Editor of the Mail on Sunday which broke this story, I hope you guys will read the report below and be good enough to take 'New Orleans Euthanasia' out of the urban myths category (and maybe nominate our LA correspondent Caroline Graham for one of your prizes instead)..... and meanwhile you might want to ask why none of your own media uncovered this story and so few reported it.

By RUKMINI CALLIMACHI, Associated Press Writer
Tue Jul 18, 7:34 PM ET

NEW ORLEANS - A doctor and two nurses who labored at a sweltering, flooded-out hospital in Hurricane Katrina's chaotic aftermath were arrested and accused Tuesday of murdering four trapped and desperately ill patients with injections of morphine and sedatives.
"We're talking about people that pretended that maybe they were God," Louisiana Attorney General Charles C. Foti said. "And they made that decision."

The defendants were booked on charges of being "principals to second-degree murder," which carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison.

The three were the first medical professionals charged in a monthslong criminal investigation into whether many of New Orleans' sick and elderly were abandoned or put out of their misery in the days after the storm.

Dr. Anna Pou, a cancer and ear, nose and throat specialist, and the two nurses were accused of deliberately killing four patients, ages 62 to 90, at Memorial Medical Center with a "lethal cocktail" of morphine and Versed. The patients' names were not released.

"There may be more arrests and victims that cannot be mentioned at this time," Foti said. "This case is not over yet." He planned to turn the case over to the New Orleans district attorney, who will decide whether to ask a grand jury to bring charges.
In court papers, state investigators said Pou told a nurse executive three days after the hurricane that the patients still awaiting evacuation would probably not survive and that a "decision had been made to administer lethal doses" to them. Overdoses of morphine or Versed can stop the heart and lungs.

Foti, however, said he believed the patients would have lived through the storm's aftermath.

"This is not euthanasia. This is homicide," the attorney general said.
Two months after the hurricane, Foti subpoenaed more than 70 people in an investigation into rumors that personnel at the medical center had put patients to death.
According to court papers, tissue samples taken from the dead at Memorial Medical tested positive for morphine and Versed, and the amount of Versed present was found to be higher than the usual therapeutic dose. Medical records reviewed by investigators also showed that none of the four patients were taking either of the two drugs as part of their routine care.
Foti said the combination of morphine and Versed "guarantees they are going to die."
Posted by Seb Hamilton  in  Dublin  on  Wed Jul 26, 2006  at  01:57 PM
Maybe it wasn't a doctor putting them out of their misery. Maybe it was a serial killer, like Dr Shipman.

Just saying...
Posted by Nona  in  London  on  Fri Feb 23, 2007  at  06:12 AM
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