Trio Charged in Katrina Murders
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
NEW ORLEANS — A doctor and two nurses who worked through the chaos that followed Hurricane Katrina were arrested on Monday night, accused of giving four patients stranded at their hospital lethal doses of morphine and a sedative, authorities said yesterday.
The three were arrested on charges of being “principals to second-degree murder.”
“We’re not calling this euthanasia. We’re not calling this mercy killings. This is second-degree murder,” a spokeswoman for Attorney General Charles Foti, Kris Wartelle, said.
The arrest warrants say that Dr. Anna Pou and the two nurses intentionally killed four patients at Memorial Medical Center “by administering or causing to be administered lethal doses of morphine sulphate [morphine] and midazolam [Versed].”
Mr. Foti had subpoenaed more than 70 people last fall in an investigation into speculation that medical personnel at Memorial Medical Center had euthanized patients who were in pain after the hurricane as they waited in miserable conditions for rescue.
“She is innocent. This whole thing is unfair,” Dr.Pou’s lawyer, Rick Simmons, said.
Her mother, Jeanette Pou, said she was distressed by her daughter’s arrest.
“Medicine was the most important thing in her life and I know she never ever did anything deliberately to hurt anyone,” she said in a telephone interview.
Memorial Medical Center had been cut off by flooding after the August 29 hurricane swamped New Orleans. Power was out in the 317-bed hospital and the temperatures inside rose to more than 100 degrees as the staff tried to tend to patients who waited four days to be evacuated.
At least 34 patients died there during that period, 10 of them patients of the hospital’s owner, Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare Corp., and 24 patients in a facility run by LifeCare Holdings Inc., a separate company.
After the bodies were recovered, Orleans Parish coroner Frank Minyard said they were so decomposed the deaths could only be listed as “Katrina-related.”
He later said samples had been taken from dozens of patients who died at various hospitals and nursing homes to test for potentially lethal doses of drugs such as morphine.