Wednesday, July 19, 2006

TOPIC: Doctor and nurses charged over Katrina patient deaths
Published: 19 July 2006

A doctor and two nurses have been charged with murdering four patients awaiting evacuation from a New Orleans hospital during Hurricane Katrina.

The staff have been charged with killing four patients, who have not been named, but were aged 9, 62, 67, and 90. The state prosecutor said the four were injected with lethal doses of morphine and an anti-anxiety drug on 1 September last year.

The charges against the three staff: Dr. Anna Pou and nurses Lori Budo and Cheri Landry, were brought by Louisiana's attorney general, Charles Foti, who launched an investigation into the deaths of dozens of patients at the Memorial hospital last October.

With the flooded city in chaos and thousands stranded without food and water, witnesses have described how patients at the hospital were enduring temperatures of 100 degrees (37.8 C).

Yesterday, Mr Foti said police had ruled out any suggestion the three carried out acts of euthanasia, or mercy killings. "This is not euthanasia. This is plain and simple homicide," he said.

The four had not been in immediate danger as they awaited evacuation, Mr Foti said, adding: "I think the patients would have lived"

More than 200 sick and elderly patients in nursing homes and hospitals in New Orleans and the surrounding area died in the weeks following the hurricane, which struck on 29 August.

Allegations of mercy killings and euthanasia being carried out at six hospitals and 13 nursing homes in the state are being investigated. Mr Foti said further charges could be brought, but did not provide any further details.

Lawyers for the three people charged are expected to issue a statement at some point today.

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