Mercy Killings in New Orleans

According to this article, euthanasia is not legal in Louisiana, but that did not stop doctors from administering lethal doses of morphine to critically ill patients during the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

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 soul.”

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.

While I strongly support assisted suicide when a patient of sound mind has indicated a desire to end his/her suffering, the article did not provide enough detail for me to make up my mind in these specific cases. While my verdict is still out on this one, I am leaning towards the decision of the doctors, albeit with some hesitation.

Update by Mike Horn: Dr. Hermant H. Vankawala, MD, a Texas E.R. physician and one of the doctors who helped thousands of patients at the New Orleans airport, provided a personal glimpse of the past week in an email to friends and family. It seems Dr. Vankawala also had to make the decision to administer lethal doses of morphine:

We did everything from delivering babies to simply providing morphine and a blanket to septic and critical patients, and allowing them to die.

I encourage you to read the whole email here: NPR.org

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