Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Medical Murders and Arresting Developments

Yesterday the Louisiana Attorney General, Charles Foti, arrested a doctor and two nurses charging them with injecting lethal doses of painkiller to four geriatric patients three days after the levees broke. Charles Foti kept repeating in his news conference “This is not euthanasia; this is plain and simple homicide." You can read more about the case in the NYT or Times-Picayune. This is not really a surprise, as back in mid-September Mr. Foti stated he would be investigating the deaths of 45 people at Memorial Medical Center, which is where the accused worked.

In the immediate days following Katrina, I was only directly responsible for the well-being of my two dogs, my daughter’s sugar-glider, four finches, and myself. Today I am happy to report with confidence that despite some deep and haunting memories, we're all doing fine. Except for the finches. I let them go before evacuating my house. I hope they are well. After New Orleans flooded it was way beyond miserable. It was nearly 100 degrees every day, and the nights were hot as well. There was little communication, and even less civic order. On my radio I heard many frantic phone calls from doctors, nurses, and volunteers at medical facilities who were crying from the stress and frustration. I cried as well. Thugs were robbing their pharmaceuticals. Their generators weren’t working, and hundreds of patients were dying while government officials were holding news conferences congratulating themselves on how republicans and democrats were working together. The frantic callers didn't understand why their critical-care patients weren't being rescued, or why new supplies of medicine, oxygen, and fuel for their generators weren't being delivered. People with relatives in hospitals and nursing homes called in as well and begged for someone to help their loved ones. Even if they personally wanted to rescue them they were not being allowed into the city. It seemed everyone thought the hospitals would be evacuated immediately if something like this happened. Memorial Medical Center wasn’t evacuated until four days after the levees broke, one day after the alleged lethal injections.

I used to work at several nursing homes and hospitals, and I think that the medical caregivers who stayed behind to look after patients are real heroes. I also know several doctors and nurses who fought their way into the city to help people. Along the way, they met quite a bit of resistance from government agencies. Perhaps Foti should arrest himself. Or he should arrest all of the FEMA and law enforcement workers who cancelled rescue efforts and refused to enter New Orleans because of a rumor that a young African American man was firing a stolen gun at helicopters. For example, Scott Delacroix is a surgeon who helped countless in New Orleans, many at the Causeway Concentration Camp where I spent a few hours, and his story about the difficulties he faced in trying to help people is a must read (you have to register, or use login: mmhoman, password: Katrina). Or there is the case of the Pennsylvania orthopedic physician, Mark Perlmutter, who was ordered by a FEMA official to stop giving CPR at a makeshift triage center set up at the airport. Why? Because he wasn’t registered with FEMA. Dr. Perlmutter thinks he could have saved several lives if he would have been allowed to do his heroic volunteer work. Charles Foti could arrest the Army Corps of Engineers, who are responsible for the deaths of more than 1000 people. He could arrest the Gretna Police Chief Arthur Lawson who ordered his troops to stop evacuees from crossing a bridge out of the hell that was New Orleans in anarchy. While Foti is at it, he might arrest President Bush, because for the first time in his presidency, he took responsibility and said that he accepted blame for the Federal Goverment’s failure in the Katrina response. I personally see the arrest of these three medical workers as a charade meant to divert attention from the more important issues.

And if you would like to see some of these same dead bodies that I witnessed in the days following the break of the levees, you can see these graphic photos of the deceased here and here. I think about these poor people and their loved ones every day.

**Later note: Read the post by Adrastos on this topic and the comments, especially by Dangerblond.


Anonymous said...

Thoroughly enjoy reading your blog here in Europe where I moved for job reasons several months after Katrina hit my beloved hometown, though I have been brought to tears once again -- this time by the absurdity of the arrests of the health care providers who are heroes in my view. Keep up your great blogging. I value your opinions and impressions; ditto for those of your daughter whose blog I like as well.

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