No Indictment in Katrina Hospital Deaths

The Associated Press
Tuesday, July 24, 2007; 9:33 PM

NEW ORLEANS -- A grand jury refused on Tuesday to indict a doctor accused of murdering four seriously ill hospital patients with drug injections during the desperate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, closing the books on the only mercy-killing case to emerge from the storm.

Dr. Anna Pou acknowledged administering medication to the patients but insisted she did so only to relieve pain.

Pou (pronounced "Poe") and two nurses were arrested last summer after Attorney General Charles Foti concluded they gave "lethal cocktails" to four patients at the flooded-out, sweltering Memorial Medical Center after the August 2005 storm.

The decision was a defeat for Foti, who accused the doctor and the nurses, but it was the New Orleans district attorney who presented the case to the grand jury, asking it to bring murder and conspiracy charges.

At a news conference, Pou fought back tears as she read a prepared statement. She refused to answer questions about what happened at the hospital because of lawsuits filed by families of three patients.

"Today's events are not a triumph but a moment of remembrance for those who lost their lives during the storm, and a tribute to all those who stayed at their posts and served people most in need," Pou said.

If another hurricane threatened, Pou added, she would stay on hospital duty "in a heartbeat." But she is concerned her case will keep other medical professionals from remaining with patients during storms.

"All of us need to remember the magnitude of human suffering that occurred in the city of New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina so we can be assured that this never happens again and that no health care professional should ever be falsely accused in a rush to judgment," she said.

Regarding her feelings toward the attorney general, Pou said she "puts his fate in God's hands."

"I figure he has to live with the decisions he's made, and I've been praying really hard every day that I can forgive him for all the pain and suffering he's caused so many people that are involved in this case," Pou said.

Foti said Tuesday that the grand jury had erred. He released reports from four medical experts who determined the deaths were homicides.

District Attorney Eddie Jordan had not called any family members of the people who died to testify before the grand jury, and Pou had received sympathetic press coverage, Foti said.

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© 2007 The Associated Press