Thursday, December 22, 2005

Euthenasia Following Katrina at New Orleans' Memorial Medical Center?

Once again we are seeing allegations of euthanasia having been committed by members of the medical staff which remained on duty after Hurricane Katrina. Hospital workers allegedly put to rest the most critical patients as well as some patients with Do Not Resuscitate orders.

Already, these hospital workers appear to have been convicted in the public’s eye. Without trial, OpEd pieces are already portraying these workers as inhuman or uncaring, certainly in violation of their Hippocratic Oath, and not fit to be medical workers. I believe this is far from the truth.

All accounts show that the situation was more than dire; there was not enough food, non-polluted water, or caregivers for all the critical patients. There was no electricity for life-sustaining machines. And right outside of Memorial Medical, the situation was deteriorating, with looters taking control of the area in the absence of police or army. This is 4 days after Katrina, and without communication, workers must have been wondering if help was coming at all.

These workers have been trained for their whole life to save lives, and I don’t believe that any doctor wanted to kill the critical patients. But at a certain point, difficult decisions needed to be made, in order to save as many patients as possible. These decisions must have been horrible to make. But the decisions had to be made to save what lives could be saved. And while I am against murder, I can’t help but see these actions, in such a harsh situation, as somewhat heroic.

I am sure that in upcoming months these hospital workers will be hung out to dry, punished by a society that is far too anxious to assign blame and to enter the litigation process that comes with assigning blame. These workers, who have worked their whole lives to save people, will probably loose their licenses to practice medicine and may even face jail time.

But before we assign blame to these hospital workers, let’s take a moment to remember the position they were in, and who put them in this position. If any blame is to be found here, certainly it lies with FEMA and the federal government in general, who left hospital workers to fend for themselves and their patients in the worst possible conditions, with no timetable for rescue and no hope in sight. If we have to assign blame, perhaps this is where it should be assigned.

Posted by Scottage at 2:48 AM / | |