Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Come Again?


Today's newspaper tells me that Dr. Anna Pou and two nurses have been arrested, accused of murdering four "trapped and desperately ill" patients with morphine injections as the flood waters rose in New Orleans.

I don't know the right of this. Did they perform four mercy killings? Was there any chance at all that anyone could have rescued those patients or were they fated to starve or drown had they not been injected? If it was done, was it done so that the hospital staff could take the patients who could be rescued and flee for their lives?

To me, the amazing thing is that Dr. Pou may have had the power to inject or not inject, but that seems to be the only power she had. She couldn't have prevented the flooding of New Orleans by repairing the levees that were known to need repair, only the Federal Government could have done that. She couldn't have evacuated the population while that beautiful city was drowning, only the Federal Government could have done that. She couldn't have ignored her responsibility to do something, only the Federal Government could have done that. And, she certainly didn't play the guitar while the water rose and still uncounted people were trapped in dreadful situations, to drown or starve or die some other way. No, she had only a few small, dreadful choices. She could leave desperately ill patients to starve or drown. She could stay with them to die herself. She could inject them with morphine.

Was what happened at Memorial Medical Center a crime? Was there any choice? Could there have been a happy outcome? I don't know. I wasn't there.

And I'll tell you who else wasn't there. Louisiana Attorney General Charles C. Foti wasn't there. FEMA wasn't there. The Army Corps of Engineers wasn't there. President George W. Bush wasn't there.

11 comments:

Deja Pseu said...

It this doesn't get thrown out, then hopefully the jury will be comprised of people who were there, and understand the choices people were forced to make. Anyone else deciding this case would be a travesty of justice.

Maya's Granny said...

Pseu, This entire thing, from start to finish is a travesty of justice and so many other things. That no one is arresting any of the people who had power to prevent and/or alleveiate all of this misery is a travesty all by itself.

Deja Pseu said...

Unfortunately, the concept of "accountability" for those actually in charge is quickly becoming an anachronism....

Zan said...

This is going to be huge down here. And I'm not optimistic about these people's chances of getting a fair trial. You're absolutely right, the people who could have done something before these medical personnel had to be faced with making these decisions abandoned their responsiblity. And they've continued to do it, almost a year after the storm. I can't bring myself to go to New Orleans yet, I've seen too many pictures of the devastation that still exists there. It was an amazing, pulsating city and that's gone now.

People here want someone to blame, they want someone to pay. It's sad, but true. Understandable, even. But the people who should pay aren't the ones who will pay. I don't know all the details of this case, but as someone who was here when Katrina hit, people were lost. It was a madhouse and no one could get any real help. I spent a week updating our Web site at work with photographs and stories from New Orleans and it nearly killed me. I don't think I've ever been that shellshocked and I've been shot at doing my job before.

Honestly, I think the doctor and nurses felt like they had no other choice. I don't know that, of course, but most people were just hopeless for a long time. And those are people who had managed to evacuate in time. I can't imagine what it must have been like for people trapped down there.

If I were given the choice between starving to death or drowning and a peaceful drug induced death, I'll take the drugs. (I nearly drown once. It's not peaceful, no matter what you've heard. It's terrifying.) And the fact is, we don't know that these patients didn't make a choice to die that way. I don't like the idea of doctors deciding to kill people but there's a line between mercy and murder and it's not clear yet which side these people were on.

Maya's Granny said...

Zan, I hope I never have to make a decision like that one. And, if what happened is what sounds like happened, I'm not sure I would trust anyone who could decide any other way. How cruel it would have been to leave them to the mercy of the waters, which was done with some nursing home patients, I understand. Which sounds like what the feds think they should have done was stay and die themselves. Just a bit much to be asked by a group of people who didn't choose to respond in any way until it was way too late.

Zan said...

Well, it makes a certain amount of sense, with this administration. Other people should die, not them. Women should die in back alley abortions because having legal abortion makes the Men feel icky. Doctors should die with their patients because its Heroic. We'll give them medals post-humously. Soldiers should die in Iraq because they're Soldiers. Civilians in other countries should die because they're Causalties of War. But our citizens should not die by foreign hands because that makes them War Justifications.

From what I understand, these patients were all terminally ill. I can understand if you've got a patient who's ill, but has a chance of surviving if they can get out of Memorial, you don't do this. But from the reports we're getting, these people were either terminally ill or so ill that moving them would kill them. So what choice do you have?

The thing is, I'm betting if they'd abandoned them and let their diseases/nature take over, they would still be slapped with some sort of punishment. They probably wouldn't be arrested, but you can be certain they'd be sued and lose all their licenses. So what was their choice? If these people had been animals in pain, on the edge of death, with no hope, no one would question a decision like this. But humans are a whole different question. People romanticize suffering. It's not romantic. It's pain.

naomi dagen bloom said...

what a relief to read this. my own reactions were exactly what you expressed. where else but on blogs can we express our outrage about such a story. reporting isn't sufficient: we needed your space to talk about it. thanks so much.

Maya's Granny said...

Naomi, feel free to talk about it here. This event is just so terrible. These women had such a horrible choice to make, that they would never have been faced with if other people were doing their jobs, and to then have to go through this is just outrageous.

lorettambeaver said...

I hope my visit down on Mexican Riveria are as delightful as your was. I will be on the same cruise ship for that trip and we plan to visit friends in each port. Enjoyed your perspective.

lorettambeaver said...

I hope you will forgive me, it seems I put the post on the wrong posting. Guess that is what happens as you get older.

Mommy off the Record said...

Damn that was a good post. Congratulations on your award. Well-deserved.