Louisianas Attorney General said evidence from a previous investigation into four patient deaths at Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005 should be kept secret.
CNN and the New Orleans Times-Picayune newspaper have requested the information, and the states 1st Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled that the materials should be protected. On Oct. 13, the Louisiana Supreme Court heard two hours worth of oral arguments from attorneys representing both sides of the case to determine if the records should be released.
What do you gain by putting this information on the street? Louisiana Attorney General James Buddy Caldwell said in a news release about the case. All you do is help the bad guy. We want to find the truth and make sure that truth is protected in court.
Last year, a grand jury refused to indict Anna Pou, the cancer surgeon accused of murdering four seriously ill patients (July 9, 2007, p. 14). Pou and nurses Lori Budo and Cheri Landry were arrested in July 2006 after former Attorney General Charles Foti concluded his investigation into the deaths.
I do not expect anything to come up on Dr. Pou, but there were 34 deaths at that hospital and not all of those investigations were wrapped up, Caldwell, Fotis successor, said in the news release following the oral arguments.
Rick Simmons, Pous attorney, said she has an interest in this case, and his main concern is that another media frenzy would surround what he referred to as the 60 or 70 John or Jane Does who were interviewed in the investigation. Simmons also worked on legislation to protect healthcare providers who might find themselves in similar, horrific situations.
This summer, the state Legislature passed three pieces of legislation related to medical treatment during disasters: One provides immunity for certain medical personnel during evacuation or treatment of patients; another provides limitation of liability to medical services performed during a declared state of emergency, and also provides definitions, terms and conditions for healthcare services, medical personnel and disasters; and the third establishes an emergency/disaster medicine review panel for such situations.
Simmons said that he expects the states high court to issue a ruling on the matter in about three months.