We had to kill our
Caroline Graham and Jo Knowsley
Reprinted from The Mail on Sunday
Doctors working in
New Orleans killed
critically ill patients rather than leaving them to die in agony as they
evacuated hospitals, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
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.
In an extraordinary
interview with The Mail on Sunday, 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.
account has been corroborated by a hospital orderly and by local government
officials. One emergency official, William 'Forest'
McQueen, said: "Those who had no chance of making it were given a lot of
morphine and lain down in a dark place to die."
Euthanasia is illegal in
Louisiana, and The Mail on Sunday is protecting the identities of the medical
staff concerned to prevent them being made scapegoats for the events of last
Their families believe
their confessions are an indictment of the appalling failure of American
authorities to help those in desperate need after Hurricane Katrina flooded the
city, claiming thousands of lives and making 500,000 homeless.
were going to die anyway'
The doctor said: "I
didn't know if I was doing the right thing. 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
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.
"I had cancer patients
who were in agony. In some cases the drugs may have speeded up the death process.
"We divided 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."
Mr McQueen, a utility
manager for the town of Abita Springs, half an hour north of New Orleans, told
relatives that patients had been 'put down', saying: "They injected them, but
nurses stayed with them until they died."
Mr McQueen has been
working closely with emergency teams and added: "They had to make unbearable
this story at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=361980&in_page_id=1770
©2005 Associated New