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    "mercy" killings in new orleans hospital

    this is from npr. i heard it this evening. it becomes clearer everyday how terrible a tragedy this really was and continues to be.

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/s...toryId=5219917
    New Orleans Hospital Staff Discussed Mercy Killings

    by Carrie Kahn

    All Things Considered, February 16, 2006 · Soon after Hurricane Katrina struck, the first unconfirmed reports surfaced of "mercy killings" -- euthanasia of patients -- at New Orleans hospitals. For months, the Louisiana attorney general has been investigating these charges. That investigation has centered on the actions of doctors and nurses at the city's Memorial Medical Center.
    NPR has reviewed secret court documents related to the investigation and not yet released to the public. The documents reveal chilling details about events at Memorial hospital in the chaotic days following the storm, including hospital administrators who saw a doctor filling syringes with painkillers and heard plans to give patients lethal doses. The witnesses also heard staff discussing the agonizing decision to end patients' lives.

    After Katrina struck the city, conditions at New Orleans' Memorial hospital were horrendous. The hospital was surrounded by water, power was out and back-up generators failed. Temperatures inside the hospital quickly soared past 100 degrees and patients were in distress.

    But it was on the seventh floor of the hospital were the situation was most dire. Memorial Medical Center leased the floor to LifeCare Hospitals, a separate long-term patient care facility.

    There, doctors and nurses were faced with few options. Conditions were deteriorating rapidly, evacuations were sporadic and security was compromised. Staff agonized whether to attempt to transport critically ill patients who might not survive the arduous evacuation. It appears another choice was considered: whether to end the lives of those who could not be moved. In the court documents reviewed by NPR, none of four key witnesses say they knew who made the decision to administer lethal doses of painkillers to the patients. But all four heard discussions that a decision had been made to end patients' lives. According to the documents, attorneys for LifeCare self-reported all of this to the Louisiana attorney general's office on Sept. 14, 2005.

    Angela McManus' mother had been on the LifeCare floor for two weeks before Katrina hit. Wilda Faye McManus, 78, was battling a persistent infection due to complications from rectal cancer. Angela McManus says she was given a bed next to her mother and never left her side until Tuesday, the day after the hurricane. She says nurses told her that helicopters were coming for the seventh-floor patients and that McManus needed to get to the first floor and wait for evacuation boats.

    Once on the first floor, McManus said, she could hear gunshots outside the hospital. She saw looters sacking a corner drug store. Many sources confirm that at this point, there were 2,000 people -- employees, patients and relatives -- trapped in the hospital. According to McManus, "The sewer lines had all backed up, and we were down there in all that stifling heat and this odor was horrendous. People were trying to get into the hospital just to get to higher ground, and they weren't allowing that... so they boarded the doors up, and we were just in there smothering all night long."

    By Wednesday morning, Angela McManus learned her mother had not been evacuated as promised. She rushed back to the seventh floor and said her mother's condition had changed. "She was real lethargic," said McManus. "She would talk to me, then just doze back off. I was like, 'What's going on with her?' I was just sitting there talking to her and stroking her, and she was just sleeping and I'm like, 'Something is wrong'."

    McManus says nurses told her that her mother had been sedated. She grew concerned because she says her mother's pain had been manageable with Tylenol and an occasional painkiller. She stayed with her mom for hours and sang gospel hymns to comfort her. According to McManus, attempts were made to evacuate other patients from the seventh floor. She recalls seeing workers desperately trying to get one woman out of the hospital, only to see that the woman died in the process.

    Angela McManus became seriously frightened for her mother when she overheard nurses saying a decision was made not to evacuate LifeCare's DNR patients. "DNR means "do not resuscitate." It does not mean do not rescue, do not take care of," McManus said. She tried to rescind her mother's DNR order to no avail. On Wednesday evening, two full days after Katrina hit, Angela McManus says three New Orleans police officers approached her with guns drawn and told her she would have to leave. New Orleans police confirm that armed officers did evacuate non-essential staff from the hospital.
    Confronted by police, McManus raced to her mother's bed. "I woke her up and I told her that I had to leave, and I told her that it was OK, to go on and be with Jesus, and she understood me because she cried," McManus recalled. "First she screamed, then she cried. And I said, 'Momma, do you understand?' And she said, 'Yes.' And she asked me, she asked me to sing to her one more time. And I did it, and everyone was crying, and then I left. I had to leave her there. The police escorted me seven floors down."

    McManus says that when she left, only eight patients, including her mother, remained alive in LifeCare.

    According to court documents reviewed by NPR, a key discussion took place on Thursday, Sept. 1, during an incident-command meeting held on the hospital's emergency ramp. A nurse told LifeCare's pharmacy director that the hospital's seventh-floor LifeCare patients were critical and not expected to be evacuated with the rest of the hospital. According to statements given to an investigator in the attorney general's office, LifeCare's pharmacy director, the director of physical medicine and an assistant administrator say they were told that the evacuation plan for the seventh floor was to "not leave any living patients behind," and that "a lethal dose would be administered," according to their statements in court documents.

    According to eye-witness accounts, LifeCare's pharmacy director said that later that Thursday morning, he found Dr. Anna Pou in the seventh-floor medical-charting room. According to his statement, Pou and two unnamed nurses informed him that it had been decided to administer lethal doses to LifeCare patients. From the court documents, it is not clear where the instruction came from. When asked what medication was to be given, the pharmacy director told the investigator from the AG's office that Pou showed him a big pack of morphine vials. The LifeCare pharmacy director stated that, before evacuating, he saw Pou and the two nurses enter the rooms of remaining LifeCare patients.

    No one has been charged in the investigation. And nowhere in the documents or in independent interviews conducted by NPR does anyone confirm seeing doctors or nurses administering lethal drugs.

    That's just one of the challenges facing Louisiana State Attorney General Charles Foti as he tries to piece together exactly what happened at Memorial Medical Center. For weeks, Foti has said he cannot comment on the ongoing investigation. The attorney general's spokeswoman, Kris Wartelle, says investigators have subpoenaed more than 70 witnesses and are examining volumes of evidence.

    Despite repeated phone calls and letters, Dr. Pou could not be reached for comment. In a written statement, Pou's lawyer, Rick Simmons, said: "Dr. Pou and other medical personnel at Memorial hospital worked tirelessly for five days to save and evacuate patients, none of whom were abandoned." In a telephone interview, Simmons said, "Dr. Pou did not engage in any criminal actions." He said he is confident that the facts will reveal heroic efforts by the physicians and the staff in a desperate situation.

    Tenet Healthcare Corporation, which owns Memorial Medical Center, declined to comment on tape for this report. On its Web site, Tenet expresses regret for the loss of life at Memorial and praises the work of its doctors and staff. Tenet acknowledges that investigators from the attorney general's office searched Memorial Hospital on Oct. 1, 2005, and removed records and other materials, particularly from the LifeCare facility. Tenet spokesman Harry Anderson said that evacuation plans for the seventh floor of Memorial were the sole responsibility of LifeCare Hospital.

    LifeCare spokeswoman Paula Lovell would not comment on the investigation but stressed that the company is cooperating fully with the attorney general. "In deference to the ongoing effort of the AG's office, and out of respect to the families of patients, we are unable to make any comments on matters related to the investigation," Lovell said.

    New Orleans Coroner Frank Minyard says it will be difficult to prove if lethal doses of morphine were given. As part of the investigation, he removed tissue samples for toxicology tests from all bodies found at Memorial. He would not say if he found traces of morphine in the samples.

    Minyard says the bodies were not retrieved from the hospital until two weeks after the storm and were in advanced stages of decomposition. He says that undermines the accuracy of toxicology tests. "If these people had been treated for their pain prior to the storm, they are going to have it in their system. And they are sick people, and their system is not working like it should work," Minyard said.

    In the absence of reliable forensic evidence, all parties say the patient charts containing morphine-dosage levels will be crucial to the case. The attorney general's office will not confirm whether he has seen them.

    Meanwhile, investigators are relying on accounts by witnesses like Angela McManus, who is still waiting for answers about how her mother died. "You know, of course I don't know what God's will is," McManus said. "I don't know when he was calling her home. If he did in fact do it, OK. But if man decided that, I want to know that. My family needs peace of mind about that."

    Angela McManus has retained a lawyer to investigate the circumstances of her mother's death. She wants answers.
    Enlarge

    Brad Loper/Dallas Morning News/Corbis A nurse from New Orleans' Memorial Medical Center fans a patient waiting in the hospital's parking garage to be evacuated via helicopter, Sept. 1, 2005. According to court papers reviewed by NPR, in the chaotic days after Hurricane Katrina hit, eyewitnesses say they heard discussions that a decision had been made to end patients' lives. The discussions related to patients on Memorial hospital's seventh floor, a separate long-term patient care facility run by LifeCare Hospitals.




    “Angela McManus says that when she left her mother's side, two full days after Katrina hit, only eight patients, including her mother, remained alive in LifeCare. ”


    Enlarge
    Carrie Kahn, NPR

    Angela McManus, 48, holds a photo of her mother Wilda Faye Sims-McManus. Her mother was 16 in the photo; she is holding a trophy for a singing contest. Wilda Faye was an acclaimed gospel singer. Reports from the Frontline

    Listen to NPR reports on the chaos at hospitals in New Orleans in the days and weeks after Hurricane Katrina struck the city:

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    Re: "mercy" killings in new orleans hospital

    DAMN!

    The whole situation is terrible and I can see both sides, but somebody is going to get prosecuted over this. If I read that correctly, Ms. McManus was battling an infection and was RECOVERING from cancer; she was not dying. If a doctor makes a unilateral decision to end the life of a recovering patient, he needs to be prosecuted, not to mention stripped of his license to practice medicine. So does the nurse who administered the drugs.

    If I overheard doctors talking about killing my mother, I would throw her over my shoulder and walk out. No way NOPD would have made me leave her there to die.

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    Re: "mercy" killings in new orleans hospital

    Quote Originally Posted by StrayDawg
    DAMN!

    The whole situation is terrible and I can see both sides, but somebody is going to get prosecuted over this. If I read that correctly, Ms. McManus was battling an infection and was RECOVERING from cancer; she was not dying. If a doctor makes a unilateral decision to end the life of a recovering patient, he needs to be prosecuted, not to mention stripped of his license to practice medicine. So does the nurse who administered the drugs.

    If I overheard doctors talking about killing my mother, I would throw her over my shoulder and walk out. No way NOPD would have made me leave her there to die.
    AMEN! No way I walk out - even IF they had guns drawn. They'd have to shoot me. But, after seeing what happened in New Orleans hospitals, there'd be no way I'd sit in a hospital there in the face of a hurricane threat - doubt many will in the future!

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    Re: "mercy" killings in new orleans hospital

    Quote Originally Posted by markay714
    AMEN! No way I walk out - even IF they had guns drawn. They'd have to shoot me. But, after seeing what happened in New Orleans hospitals, there'd be no way I'd sit in a hospital there in the face of a hurricane threat - doubt many will in the future!
    that's what i tought. they'd either leave me with her, let me take her, or kill me there. if i was ms mcmanus i'd do all i could to have that doctor's head. if it is as it sounds...that wasn't euthanasia it was murder.

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    Re: "mercy" killings in new orleans hospital

    Quote Originally Posted by StrayDawg
    DAMN!

    The whole situation is terrible and I can see both sides, but somebody is going to get prosecuted over this. If I read that correctly, Ms. McManus was battling an infection and was RECOVERING from cancer; she was not dying. If a doctor makes a unilateral decision to end the life of a recovering patient, he needs to be prosecuted, not to mention stripped of his license to practice medicine. So does the nurse who administered the drugs.

    If I overheard doctors talking about killing my mother, I would throw her over my shoulder and walk out. No way NOPD would have made me leave her there to die.

    Quote Originally Posted by sik-m-boi
    that's what i tought. they'd either leave me with her, let me take her, or kill me there. if i was ms mcmanus i'd do all i could to have that doctor's head. if it is as it sounds...that wasn't euthanasia it was murder.
    Let's be careful before we jump the gun on too many accusations. Remember, it was a persistent infection from complications, and don't confuse this infection with something as simple as a cut that wasn't cleaned properly. In order for her to be in the hospital for the infection to be treated, it had to have been pretty serious. Add to that the disease and other toxic pollutants that were rampant and even a simple infection becomes serious so imagine what a serious infection that keeps you hospitalized would become in those conditions. Plus there was a major shortage of food supplies. If the patient isn't getting the proper nutrition, how much more threatening is this infection.


    Quote Originally Posted by markay714
    AMEN! No way I walk out - even IF they had guns drawn. They'd have to shoot me. But, after seeing what happened in New Orleans hospitals, there'd be no way I'd sit in a hospital there in the face of a hurricane threat - doubt many will in the future!
    Markay, I don't how hard you will find this to believe, but there were many people who left their elderly family members at Memorial even after they were discharged. There were others who dropped them off on their way out of town.
    How do I know this? Because my twin sister (a tech grad) was the Human Resource director at Memorial. She rode the storm out and the chaos that followed the following week while trying to care for these people. Having no medical training, all she could really do was basically be a gopher and serve people and try to get them as comfortable as possible. She wasn't consulted on any medical decisions, naturally. However, she did say that food supplies that should have lasted didn't because of the number of people that shouldn't have been there that stayed coupled with the fact that the supplies were for only about 3 days anyway. Nobody expected what happened.


    Okay everybody, now don't get me wrong. I'm not defending, denying or justifying what the doctors of Lifecare did. However, as my sister pointed out, there is more to the story than what you are going to hear. There are doctors who did not perform as they should have that are quick to make accusations to get the light off of them and so forth. Also, don't overlook those that are quick to blame others for their bad decisions such as leaving their loved ones and now want to cash in. And don't forget the source of the news story.

    As a disclaimer, I want to stress that my sister was the HR director of Memorial and had no dealings with the Lifecare staff or their handling of their patients. What they did with their patients wasn't discussed with those of Memorial. (she was interviewed by the AG) However, after talking with her after she was evacuated, she was quick to point out that there were going to be stories and that everyone shouldn't be quick to jump to conclusions.

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    Re: "mercy" killings in new orleans hospital

    Thanks for that insight DD.

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    Re: "mercy" killings in new orleans hospital

    Thanks DD. Sometimes articles are written with a particular slant to work people up to a frenzy. Imagine that....

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    Re: "mercy" killings in new orleans hospital

    Quote Originally Posted by champion110
    Thanks DD. Sometimes articles are written with a particular slant to work people up to a frenzy. Imagine that....
    No problem, Champ. That's why I toned down alot on the stories of the looters and such because when she got evacd, she said that at night they could hear some gunshots but it was never to the point that they or at least she was fearful. There were rumors of people breaking into hospitals and stealing drugs, but she wasn't aware of that at Memorial. I will say this, though. There was a doctor and several nurses that stayed at my parents' house a day or two until their relatives could get them. Well, my mom said she walked in on a conversation between the doctor and nurses in which she overheard the doctor say something to the effect that "if someone finds out, there'll be some serious trouble." The converation ended as soon as they realized my mom walked in. She didn't know what they were talking about and then saw the reports of euthanasia and began to wonder. Now this was a Memorial doctor, not Lifecare. I don't know that any accusations have been made about Memorial.

    I'd like to stress again, when thinking about the actions of these doctors, and I'm not defending them, keep in mind that you are dealing with a situation that was totally unexpected. For those of us who weren't there, I don't think we can begin to imagine what they went through unless we experienced something like it. You had people who were prepared to run on generators for 3 days and deal with patients and family members for 3 days. They were expecting to be able to go home once the winds died down and come back for their shift. They would be able to watch t.v. to get the news. Use their phones to get in touch with people. They had none of that. As far as they knew, they were on an island and no one knew of their existence. They didn't know where the water came from, if it would stop, or if it would leave. Patients who were very sick before the storm, but had the ability of a recovery are suddenly put in a situation of being treated and stabilized in less than 3rd world conditions. Food supplies that weren't going to last. And to stress again, no communication whatsoever, to know if anybody even knew they were there.

    Also, even though my sister said she didn't feel threatened, they were aware of the element on the outside. The sad thing is, the NOPD only showed up once before evacuations began. Shortly after that, there were 3 national guard soldiers who stopped by. After getting something to eat, they all left never to return. Husbands who stayed behind with their wives were given guns and they were the ones who kept the outside outside and those inside safe. Once again, we all need to remember that there are two sides to the story and the truth is usually somewhere between them.

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    Re: "mercy" killings in new orleans hospital

    Quote Originally Posted by Dirtydawg
    Once again, we all need to remember that there are two sides to the story and the truth is usually somewhere between them.
    Just like most stories.

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    Re: "mercy" killings in new orleans hospital

    Quote Originally Posted by Dirtydawg
    Let's be careful before we jump the gun on too many accusations. Remember, it was a persistent infection from complications, and don't confuse this infection with something as simple as a cut that wasn't cleaned properly. In order for her to be in the hospital for the infection to be treated, it had to have been pretty serious. Add to that the disease and other toxic pollutants that were rampant and even a simple infection becomes serious so imagine what a serious infection that keeps you hospitalized would become in those conditions. Plus there was a major shortage of food supplies. If the patient isn't getting the proper nutrition, how much more threatening is this infection.
    still doesn't seem right for someone (even a doctor) to decide to euthanize another person...especially without the consent of that person or the person's family.

    i was reacting to the story that i posted...i believe i prefaced my statements with "if this is true" (or something to that affect)...if i didn't, that is what i intended.

    i appreciate your insight and i am aware of the seriousness of certain infections...my grandfather passed away a few years ago due to one of those infections after suffering from a stroke.

    i'm not saying this woman's mother would have survived if they had evacuated her...just that if there was a chance of recovery, they should have tried to save her.

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    Re: "mercy" killings in new orleans hospital

    Quote Originally Posted by sik-m-boi
    still doesn't seem right for someone (even a doctor) to decide to euthanize another person...especially without the consent of that person or the person's family.

    i was reacting to the story that i posted...i believe i prefaced my statements with "if this is true" (or something to that affect)...if i didn't, that is what i intended.

    i appreciate your insight and i am aware of the seriousness of certain infections...my grandfather passed away a few years ago due to one of those infections after suffering from a stroke.

    i'm not saying this woman's mother would have survived if they had evacuated her...just that if there was a chance of recovery, they should have tried to save her.
    I'm not disagreeing with you, and I hope I didn't come across as too harsh. I really just wanted to give a little insight as to some of the goings on. Incidentally, I had lunch with my sister today. Without going into detail, there will be some people from Lifecare who will get into trouble.

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    Re: "mercy" killings in new orleans hospital

    Some of the doctors that work at Memorial Hosipital also have privileges at LifeCare Hospital. The doctors often discharge long-term patients from Memorial and transfer them to LifeCare for further treatment and care. Then the same doctor can continue to treat these patients under the LifeCare umbrella. I know this because I have worked at both facilities. Granted, it may not have been done at Memorial; but, Memorial's doctors could have easily been involved in this at LifeCare.

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    Re: "mercy" killings in new orleans hospital

    Quote Originally Posted by techbluedog
    Some of the doctors that work at Memorial Hosipital also have privileges at LifeCare Hospital. The doctors often discharge long-term patients from Memorial and transfer them to LifeCare for further treatment and care. Then the same doctor can continue to treat these patients under the LifeCare umbrella. I know this because I have worked at both facilities. Granted, it may not have been done at Memorial; but, Memorial's doctors could have easily been involved in this at LifeCare.
    That is true, and it's possible that some of these patients might have been under some Memorial doctors' care. I was under the impression that they weren't, however, my sister wasn't privy to that information. My main point was that there is much more to this story than is being put in the press.

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    Re: "mercy" killings in new orleans hospital

    Quote Originally Posted by Dirtydawg
    I'm not disagreeing with you, and I hope I didn't come across as too harsh. I really just wanted to give a little insight as to some of the goings on. Incidentally, I had lunch with my sister today. Without going into detail, there will be some people from Lifecare who will get into trouble.
    no, you weren't too harsh...i just wanted to clarify my position.

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    Re: "mercy" killings in new orleans hospital

    Quote Originally Posted by Dirtydawg
    That is true, and it's possible that some of these patients might have been under some Memorial doctors' care. I was under the impression that they weren't, however, my sister wasn't privy to that information. My main point was that there is much more to this story than is being put in the press.
    i can agree with that...isn't that always the case?

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