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September 14, 2005

'This was not murder, this was compassion.'

Topics: News

No, this WAS murder.

DOCTORS working in hurricane-ravaged New Orleans killed critically ill patients rather than leave them to die in agony as they evacuated.

With gangs of rapists and looters rampaging through wards in the flooded city, senior doctors took the harrowing decision to give massive overdoses of morphine to those they believed could not make it out alive.

One New Orleans doctor told how she "prayed for God to have mercy on her soul" after she ignored every tenet of medical ethics and ended the lives of patients she had earlier fought to save.

Her heart-rending account has been corroborated by a hospital orderly and by local government officials.

Not even given the chance to evacuate. They had morphine there, they could have administered it for pain experienced during an evacuation, but they gave up. And then evacuated themselves. Yes, God will forgive you...I just shudder to think of the precedent set by this.

"I didn't know if I was doing the right thing," the doctor 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 finally fled her hospital late last week in fear of being murdered by the armed looters, denied her actions were murder.

"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."

Posted by beth at September 14, 2005 12:31 AM

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