Saturday, February 25, 2006


Court documents and reports are disturbing. That a hospital in New Orleans gave lethal injections during hurricane Katrina. Reportedly, an unknown number of patients on the 7th floor of the New Orleans Memorial Medical Center hospital were euthanized. Some, but not all were "do not resuscitate". The conditions in the hospital were bad. No power, lack of sanitation, soaring temperatures and fear of looters were all factors.

The Louisiana State Attorney General has been investigating since September. Subpoenas have been issued.

One can only speculate that the overhype of the widespread looting and lawlessness, the breakdown in New Orleans government response, the failure of law enforcement, the lack of preparedness by the hospital, and the 24-hour news despair cycle may have contributed to what may have been hospital personnel anxiety and desire to leave. Killing their patients seem to have been their exit strategy. At least that might be a factor, but there is probably another reason as well.

It is probably the same reason that the Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center story has not generated a lot of national media attention either.

In Los Angeles, county-owned Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center, self described as the only black medical school west of the Mississippi, lost accreditation due to health and safety violations. Despite "a poor standard of care" and "multiple cases of unnecessary loss of life over the past years" and "incompetence [that] caused at least three deaths in the heart unit" and a number of other gross violations, where nurses did not have certifications for basic life support -- despite all that -- the hospital stayed open because, as the Los Angeles Times points out, "Community pride, timid county leadership stand in the way of a remedy." Plus Maxine Waters, the civil rights industry in Los Angeles, and community activists from Watts where the hospital is located. Mind you, it was a teaching hospital where medical students from Drew got their training.

Read the whole horror story. The series is here.

Newsday grasped the problem.
How did things go so wrong for so long before anyone acted to fix them?
A closer reading of King/Drew's history offers a clue. What goes unsaid of the hospital born of the 1965 riots is that it was conceived as much to create jobs as to heal patients.
The trauma center at Drew was finally closed. Years too late.

Both hospitals serve almost exclusively black populations. I can find no reports on the New Orleans hospital to suggest that the level of day to day negligence was the same as the Los Angeles Country-owned Martin Luther King hospital, but surely someone should ask the question whether the black population is best served by identity politics in medicine?

Read the preface of William McGowan's book, Coloring the News to see how identify politics is so destructive. Lethal in the case of medicine. In light of New Orleans Memorial Medical Center and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Trauma Center, shouldn't we be asking if blacks are served by such political shanigans and low standards?

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