Staff doctors in a New Orleans hospital may have euthanased critically ill patients with massive doses of morphine in the chaotic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. According to the London’s Mail on Sunday, the doctors say that the patients would have died anyway and some were in great pain. They were unable to care for them properly when the power failed and looters and rapists were roaming the wards.
These extraordinary claims have not been reported in the US press and should probably be treated with some caution. However reporters Caroline Graham and Jo Knowsley interviewed a doctor who had killed several patients and assert that a hospital orderly and local government officials had corroborated her story.
“I didn’t know if I was doing the right thing,” the doctor reportedly said. “But I did not have time. I had to make snap decisions, under the most appalling circumstances, and I did what I thought was right. I injected morphine into those patients who were dying and in agony. If the first dose was not enough, I gave a double dose. And at night I prayed to God to have mercy on my soul.”
The doctor, who eventually fled the hospital in fear of being killed by armed looters, denied that she was a murderer. “This was not murder, this was compassion. They would have been dead within hours, if not days,” she said.
What we did was give comfort to the end. I had cancer patients who were in agony. In some cases the drugs may have speeded up the death process. We divided the hospital’s patients into three categories: Those who were traumatised but medically fit enough to survive, those who needed urgent care, and the dying. People would find it impossible to understand the situation. I had to make life-or-death decisions in a split second.
It came down to giving people the basic human right to die with dignity. There were patients with ‘do not resuscitate’ signs. Under normal circumstances some could have lasted several days. But when the power went out, we had nothing. Some of the very sick became distressed. We tried to make them as comfortable as possible. The pharmacy was under lockdown because gangs of armed looters were roaming around looking for their fix. You have to understand these people were going to die anyway.”
The British paper Scotland on Sunday related yet another hospital mercy killing. A female manager ordered that a 380 pound man be put down because the staff could not evacuate him. A weeping doctor told reporter Jacqui Goddard: “We had minutes to get out, and I asked, ‘What are we going to do about this guy, because he’s a big man. It was going to be tough getting him down those stairs — the elevators weren’t working. That woman turned to me and said straight out, ‘We’re going to help him to heaven’. It makes me want to break down, how that man’s life was taken away.”
- Prescribe morning-after pills to young teenagers, say US pediatric group - November 30, 2012
- Bahrain sentences protest docs to prison - November 28, 2012
- Terry Pratchett assisted suicide documentary wins International Emmy - November 27, 2012