- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Louisiana attorney general’s office is investigating numerous deaths related to Hurricane Katrina at more than 20 medical facilities, including charges of euthanasia at a New Orleans hospital.

“It’s a pretty monumental investigation,” said Kris Wartelle, public information director for Attorney General Charles C. Foti Jr.

A team of investigators is reviewing the deaths of 140 patients at 13 nursing homes and six hospitals and the actions of employees and administrators before and after the devastating hurricane struck on Aug. 29.

Most investigations are focusing on whether nursing homes and hospitals were negligent for failing to evacuate patients.

Salvador and Mable Mangano, owners of St. Rita’s nursing home in Chalmette, La., were charged with neglected homicide after 34 of their patients drowned.

“After the arrests at St. Rita’s, all kinds of things came in from different places, including rumors about euthanasia at Memorial [Medical Center],” Miss Wartelle said.

Dr. Bryant King, a contract employee who worked at Memorial for one month, told CNN Wednesday night that another doctor had indicated that mercy killings were discussed two days after Katrina hit, while the hospital was being evacuated.

On Aug. 31, Dr. King said, he was asked to join in prayer with other patients and medical staff on the second floor and saw one doctor holding “a handful of syringes.”

Dr. King said he did not see any shots administered but that he overhead a doctor telling a patient, “I’m going to give you something to make you feel better.”

Steven Campanini, spokesman for Tenet Healthcare Corp., said the second floor was a bustling staging area for evacuating patients and denied that a prayer gathering occurred.

Miss Wartelle said investigators are questioning patients. When asked about Dr. King’s statement, she said: “He never really saw it or talked to anybody who witnessed it. He heard talk about it, but never saw it.”

Mr. Campanini said boat evacuations of 2,000 people in the building began Aug. 31 and five helicopters were hired after local officials said “we would have to [evacuate] on our own.”

“We don’t know how widespread any of these discussions could have been, when there were 2,000 people focused on getting out,” Mr. Campanini said.

By Sept. 1, Memorial was housing 260 of its patients plus 52 others from LifeCare, an acute-care facility that rents space at the hospital. All patients and employees were evacuated by Sept. 2.

Dr. King suggested that the 45 bodies recovered from Memorial was an unusually high number.

Mr. Campanini said the number includes 24 LifeCare patients, 11 bodies that were in the morgue before the storm, three bodies stored from a nearby hospital, and three who died as they were transported to the evacuation ramp.

More than 50 bodies reportedly were recovered from Charity Hospital.

“The efforts of the staff were heroic, and they were focused on saving lives and getting patients out,” Mr. Campanini said.



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