Murder or Heroism? or ?

A New Orleans MD and 2 nurses were accused of being principals to 2nd degree murder in the deaths of 4 patients at Memorial Medical Center 3 days after Hurricane Katrina hit.

The charge carries a mandatory life sentence although the State will turn the case over to the prosecutor who will determine whether to ask a grand jury to bring charges.

They are accused of killing 4 elderly patents with morphine and Versed= a strong relaxing medication.

These people are heroes according to the Director of Critical Care at Charity Hospital in New Orleans…“These very sick patients had to opportunity to leave and chose not to” states Dr. deBoisblanc, the director according to an article in Yahoo news of 22 JUL 2006,

At the time of the deaths of the patients the hospital was in water 10 feet deep…no electricy and the temperature inside was over 100 degrees while the hospital personel waited for help.

Speaking as a MD with an active medical license, I believe that in risking their own safety in staying on to care for these patients and deliberately breaking the law to prevent continuing suffering and pain for these patients, they ARE heroes.

Should the Dr. and the 2 nurses be prosecuted of 2nd degree murder and if so, what is your opinion as to what the penalty should be?

I’ve been following this story very loosely. Perhaps you can clear something up for me.

Did the patients ask to be euthenized, or simply asked to stay and not be evacuated? If it’s the former, then the doctors did no wrong. If it’s the latter, they’re murderers. If, indeed, they killed patients against the patients’ wishes, then I don’t think that a sentence of life in prison is at all harsh.

Got a link? Because the first “to” in that quote is probably either “no” or “the”, which makes a big difference (probably “the”). At any rate, I think we need more facts than presented in the OP to make a decision.

Digging a bit, there is this cite from just a few days ago.

CNN says:

A day before that, MSNBC reported:

From last year in September we have another cite that says:

I can find nothing, anywhere, even hinting at the patients asking for the doctors to end their lives via lethal doses. Unless someone can provide a cite to that effect, I think my mind is made up. They are murderers, and deserve the strongest penalty the law can muster.

Yes they terminated some critically ill elderly patients. Until we examine the feasability of alternatives, I will withhold judgement.

No good deed goes unpunished…

Can you cite a legal statute, anywhere, that says a doctor may kill you without your consent if he doesn’t feel that alternatives in treatment will be less painful?

They are murderers. Plain and simple.

Here is a picture of the hospital:

You can plainly see that it is a multi-story building and the patients could have been moved someplace that was above the flood waters if they were on the first few floors.

Sure the conditions would have been uncomfortible for many days. Maybe some or all the patients would have died anyway under those conditions. But the hospital staff had no reason not to believe that help would have come eventually from somewhere (the whole country was not underwater).

I say they were required to stay there and take care of the patients as best they could until help finally arrived unless conditions became such that their own lives were in immediate danger (like if the building was on fire or about to collapse).

Yep, that about sums it up. Unless there’s some new detail that makes this aspect go away, this is a no-brainer. Murder, she wrote (er, he wrote).

They can’t even do it with your consent, can they?

No I can’t.
A better question pertaining to my post would be “Can you cite a legal statute, anywhere, that says a doctor may kill you without your consent if he doesn’t have treatment available.”

No I can’t either.

The Shiavo case comes to mind. Perhaps some one can provide the statute you require that permitted the doctor in charge of that case to allow the plug being pulled on Terri.

Excellent point Mr Mace.

Euthenasia is, after all, illegal in Louisiana. My question was more of a rhetorical one, but I should have included that detail, as it is indeed important.

I do not see where in the law you are allowed to kill only if you have a white coat. While we may debate euthanasia, I presume Louisiana does not allow this practice. If it is not legal, it is a crime of one sort of another.

That is why we have courts, to look into these sorts of things.

Stupid coding…
~kicks dirt~

Perhaps. Some of the articles I’ve read over the last few hours have stated that the doctors did what they did because they viewed the alternative as being more painful; that patients were already dying, but they didn’t want them to die in pain and in poor conditions.

I’ll try to find them again and cite them if you’d like. (I’m not sure if those quotes are in the articles I’ve already provided)

Next of kin for an incapacitated person and a situation in which life support was removed rather than being continued. No lethal dose was given.

I’m going to have to see more details before I can say for sure what I think about this, but for obvious reasons, I tend to give the docs in question the benefit of the doubt.

If you have to get everybody out, and you realize that it isn’t possible to get everybody out, you’re left with a question of triage, in the original sense of the word.

My understanding, gleaned from several sources, is that these were long-term ventilator-dependent patients. One of them was described as “awake and conscious”, which leads me to think the others were not. The one who was awake and conscious weighed 380 pounds and was paralyzed; given the precarious stairs in old hospitals, it might not have been physically possible to get him to the roof for evacuation. (Remember–no electricity means no elevators.)

Could the staff have stayed behind and kept them going? It would have taken quite a few people to hang around, since these patients would have to be bagged manually. In 100 degree heat with no fresh water and dwindling supplies, it’s easy to see why that might not have looked like a very good option.

Even if this wasn’t a good decision and there were viable alternatives, it was a decision made by a doc who had probably been working for several days without rest in nightmarish conditions. Anyone who wants to call it murder needs to be sure they wouldn’t have done the same thing.

So. If a mother(next of kin) starves(removes life support) her baby(incapacitated) to death, she will be charged with murder won’t she?

I’m not particularly concerned about the legal aspects anyway. The two scenarios above are obviously different even though the supporting criteria for Shiavo matches the baby killing.

We need to examine the extenuating circumstances in this case and that can only be arrived at in a court of law.

Ethically and legally, there is a big difference between active euthanasia (giving something to cause death, like the doctor in New Orleans did) and passive euthanasia (removing life-sustaining interventions, as they did with Schiavo).

The former is generally prohibited by law in the US, except under very controlled situations in Oregon. The latter happens every day in every hospital in America.

At my blog a while back, I posted a glossary on medically-supervised death that lays it all out.

From the article linked by FinnAgain:

“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 finally fled her hospital late last week in fear of being murdered by the armed looters, said: “This was not murder, this was compassion. They would have been dead within hours, if not days. We did not put people down. What we did was give comfort to the end.”

Bolding mine – “if not days”? Because if some of these patients would truly have survived for days, that puts a different light on things, doesn’t it?

And whose “end”? The patient’s or the staff’s? What was going to happen first – the patient’s death or the evacuation?

Then there’s this: “These very sick patients had to [sic] opportunity to leave and chose not to” states Dr. deBoisblanc, the director according to an article in Yahoo news of 22 JUL 2006."

Bolding mine again. That makes no sense. You don’t allow the patient make this decision, not in an emergency situation.

I hope they can prove to the grand jury that the four patients were indeed hours from a painful death. If that’s what happened, they did the right thing.

Hate to resurrect a dead thread, but I just saw the affidavit (pdf) filed by the Attorney General. Assuming the evidence in it is accurate, it looks like a pretty clear-cut case of murder.

My answer to the OP is that they may have been both heroes for staying and murderers for killing patients. The two terms are not mutually exclusive.

Although no one has come right out and said it, the implication lurking behind the CNN story (and some of the other gossip about the story) is that the hospital officials and medical personnel did the deed so that they themselves could be evacuated. That the actions were contemplated and carried out with an eye to saving the skins of the hospital staff from the perceived coming Hobbesian war of all against all, not particularly driven by mercy per se.

Let’s remember the general air of brain-paralyzing panic that prevailed back then – how officals could stand in front of TV screens showing the inside of the Superdome and say bald-facedly, “we have no way of knowing what’s going on in there”; how the US government seemed unable to reach New Orleans in any capacity for a week when any licensed driver in the United States could have just driven there in a day or two; the mayor’s posturing, Brownie’s manicured ineffectiveness. In context of such incompetence, panic, and blindness to reality, a decision to kill the weak so that the tribe can flee unencumbered seems plausible.

Not supportable, plausible.

Clearly this is just armchair speculation on my part, and I admit I wasn’t on the scene; but it seems like the investigators feel they have evidence to support such a case being made.

To prosecute now seems…just. If you decide that society is collapsing and normal rules will no longer apply, and do whatever suits you — but then society recovers quickly and normal rules are reinstated – you lost that bet and might have to face the consequences. The same principle applies when there’s a traffic jam – sure it seems like Hobbes’ war of all against all when people try to force their way in front of your car, but after you pass the accident chokepoint, normal order is restored, and there will be a consequence if you took the law into your own hands during the zipper merge.