Katrina hospital deaths, records released

Or at least some of the records have been released, according to CNN. In case you’re not familiar with this story, it involves the question of whether patient deaths that occurred at Memorial Hospital in the aftermaths of Katrina may have been due to drug overdoses administered by doctors and nurses. The state wanted 5 medical experts to testify that up to 9 patients were homicide victims, but it is unclear whether the grand jury ever had the opportunity to hear those experts.

I don’t know the details of the situation, but my guess is that even if the state has 5 medical experts to testify that the doctors and nurses killed those patients, the defense could present their own medical experts to the contrary. For instance, one of the families hired their own investigator to look into the death of their 90 year old mother. I don’t know the health status of that woman, but at 90 years old in a hospital with no electricity and dirty flood water flowing both around and through the building, it seems likely that there could be other things contributing to her death besides excessive morphine.

I guess I feel torn about the situation – on the one hand I feel like those patients and their families deserve an investigation into why they had dangerous (or even deadly) levels of morphine in their system. On the other hand, I feel like the deplorable conditions and levels of stress that the doctors and nurses were working with at the time may have caused them to take actions they wouldn’t do under normal situations – actions that perhaps do not equate to criminal intent. Maybe they did administer lethal doses (purposefully or accidentally), but maybe those patients were suffering (they were all on the acute care floor) and the staff had no idea when help would arrive. It’s easy to look back in hindsight and say “you shouldn’t have done this”, but I think those of us who weren’t there have no idea what those patients, doctors, and nurses were going through. Will a full investigation take this into account, or will it only look at what should have occurred? It’s such a sad situation all around. Any thoughts?

CNN – “Medical experts never testified in Katrina hospital deaths


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