Monday, July 24, 2006

Heroic in the wake of Katrinia -- and fallout since. This Doctor had been at UPMC

My Friends:

I write, with regret, to inform you that one of our dear friends and most respected colleagues, Dr. Anna Maria Pou, is in urgent need of your support. Please read this message and join me in helping her.

Anna is a distinguished surgeon and teacher who has earned national recognition for her contributions to the field of Otolaryngology. Anna was on duty at New Orleans’ Memorial Medical Center during the week of hurricane Katrina last year. The city was inundated with flood waters, the hospital was left without power in 100-degree-plus heat, and the prevailing conditions were absolutely desperate. As most people know, there was no rescue for people left behind until almost a week after the hurricane.

Dr. Pou worked tirelessly for nearly six days helping the seriously ill patients and also the hundreds of people who sought shelter in the hospital. The conditions were unspeakably poor, and in the soaring temperatures with no water or food, many patients (nearly 40 individuals) died, despite great effort to save them. The majority of those patients were elderly people who had been admitted to the hospital’s LifeCare unit, a place typically reserved for long-term care and for terminally ill persons. Some of the others who died were frail older people who had been transferred to Memorial from area nursing homes. A few were younger people who succumbed to lesser illnesses that were exacerbated by the extreme state of affairs.

By personal accounts from nurses, doctors, administrators, and support personnel who knew Dr. Pou, and had worked with her closely in the months before Katrina, her work during the crisis was “heroic”, “selfless”, and “distinguished”. With a handful of other dedicated doctors and nurses, she worked without sleep and without nourishment, and she declined an early opportunity to evacuate the hospital in order to care for those who still needed help. At great self-sacrifice, she prevented further loss of life and has been credited with saving multiple people from dying.

Apparently there were a few individuals in the hospital who could not understand why so many people were dying. Allegations were made, egregiously accusing Dr. Pou and the others of giving too much narcotic pain medication, even using the word “euthanasia”. This attracted national news coverage which became absurdly sensationalistic. Because of the widespread news coverage, an official investigation was launched.

Dr. Pou has now been arrested and accused of 2nd degree murder, along with several nurses. The reaction of experienced legal and medical observers is that the investigation was handled unprofessionally, conducted outside official jurisdiction, and that the conclusions have been based on disputable information.

It is my expectation that once all the facts are known, Dr. Pou will be recognized as one of several compassionate, dedicated professionals who did the best they could do under absolutely desperate circumstances, and that all allegations of misconduct will be shown to be unfounded.

However, her defense will be very costly, and it will not be covered by malpractice insurance. Therefore Dr. Pou’s professional reputation AND her personal assets are at substantial risk. Remember, this kind of thing could happen to any of us who happen to be on call when a disaster strikes.

We have organized a legal defense fund to help her fight this battle. I am asking you to consider making a contribution of $500 to $1000, or more if you can do so, as soon as you possibly can.

Donations can be sent to our office at the address below.

Please make checks out to:

Anna Pou MD Defense Fund

Please help.

Respectfully submitted,
Daniel W. Nuss, MD, FACS
Professor and Chairman
LSU Department of Otolaryngology
Head and Neck Surgery
533 Bolivar Street, 5th Floor ENT Suite
New Orleans, LA 70112

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How about a defense fund for the nurses involved?