Friday, July 27, 2007

Foti vs. reality

The saga surrounding Dr. Pou's exoneration continues. Yesterday, we also learned that, despite the grand jury’s decision that there was no justification in pursuing homicide charges against Dr. Pou, Attorney General Foti wants to continue the persecution. He is requesting that documents pertaining to the case be unsealed, insisting that they will confirm that the health care workers were guilty, despite the grand jury’s finding to the contrary.

Unsealing documents in a case like this would be quite unusual, and would potentially allow material to be taken out of context and distorted in a continuation of Foti's witch hunt in the press.

Stephen Gillers, professor of law and legal ethics at New York University, noted,

"Prosecutors are instructed to refrain from making comments that have a substantial chance of heightening public condemnation of the accused, which is what his latest comments on the grand jury ruling does. It echoes the prejudicial comments he made at the time the women were arrested," Gillers said.

We have already witnessed the incompetence of responsible officials in dealing with Katrina. Let's not let the diversionary tactics of Foti and the like distract us from the real culprits. Rather than allowing this diversionary tactic and persecution of a fine physician to continue, let's focus on the colossal failures of our government in protecting vulnerable citizens and its shameful cover-ups. Foti, and every other grandstanding politician involved in this tragically incompetent response to disaster should be held accountable.

Best political one-liner award, from "Bedtime for Gonzo"

I don't often laugh out loud while reading the morning paper any more. . .but this is too good to not share with you.

This line from Eugene Robinson's rapier report on Alberto Gonzales is destined to become a classic:

"Gonzo has managed to do something no one else in Washington has managed in years: create a spirit of true bipartisanship."

Hat's off to Mr. Robinson!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Voices of Reason from New Orleans

Welcome news today from New Orleans! More than a year since Dr. Anna Pou was arrested for alleged euthanasia of elderly patients suffering in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans grand jury today reached their verdict--and wisely declined to indict Dr. Pou.

In gracious remarks, Dr. Pou stated, "This is not a moment of triumph, but a moment of remembrance for all those who lost their lives during the storm.

We need to remember the magnitude of human suffering that occurred in the city of New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina so that we can ensure that this never happens again— and that no health care professional should ever go through this again."

Today, the New York Times also reported on the loss of major hospitals and health infrastructure in New Orleans since Katrina, as well as the exodus of doctors. This is no great surprise after the witch hunt that has haunted Dr. Pou and her other colleagues who bravely stayed to care for their patients. Some other generous souls are also trying to help rebuild their city--an inspiring story concerns the Common Ground Free Clinic, whose volunteers are doing more to rebuild their community than any of the too visible politicians.

Perhaps now the attention can return to the real criminals in Katrina--the politicians and irresponsible officials who abandoned the city's most vulnerable citizens during the crisis. Hopefully, they will be held accountable for their gross failures and negligence. . .and Dr. Pou can return to once again caring for her patients.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Dr. Pou's Persecution vs. FEMA

This week marks the first anniversary since Dr. Anna Pou and two nurses were accused of murder for patient deaths in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and were arrested. Dr. Pou has yet to be charged by the grand jury, and the cases against the nurses were dropped after they were compelled, against their wills, to testify before a grand jury investigating the related incidents. These fine healthcare workers selflessly stayed, despite horrific circumstances including sweltering temperatures, lack of food, water, electricity, and medical supplies, risking their own lives to care for others abandoned by the city, state, and federal agencies responsible for ensuring the safety of the citizens.

Despite lack of supporting evidence from toxicologists, Attorney General Foti has continued his grandstanding, publicity-seeking witch hunt, just as Mike Nifong did in the Duke lacrosse players trial.

Fortunately, Dr. Pou is fighting back. This week, she filed a suit against the state's Office of Risk Management and Mr. Foti, accusing him of using her arrest for his political gain in his bid for re-election bid. The suit does not ask for personal damages, though that would be entirely appropriate and justified. Instead, it asks for the state to pay for Pou's legal defense against civil lawsuits; she was working for the state at the time of the hurricane. Backing her claims as to Mr. Foti's political motivation, Dr. Pou's suit notes that Foti had her arrested, "called an international press conference the next day to announce the arrest, made extra judicial comments totally contrary to the Rules of Professional Responsibility, and culminated the week's activity
with an attorney general fundraiser to showcase his `achievements' in the arrest of Dr. Pou and the two nurses."

Dr. Pou is gaining other support. There was a rally this week to mark the anniversary of her arrest and ask for justice, as noted in pictures and video. According to the Times-Picayune, the American Medical Association and the American Nurses Association have issued a statement noting that "During any disaster, health care providers, doctors and nurses and others, must work together to make the very best decisions that they can with their given available resources. Judgments regarding these decisions and subsequent actions would be more properly considered by their respective licensing boards. This criminal prosecution will chill future responses of health practitioners during a major disaster for fear of having their very best judgments second-guessed. Hurricane Katrina is not the last disaster that we're going to face."

We have already witnessed the incompetence of responsible officials in dealing with Katrina. Today, we learned that FEMA suppressed health warnings from its own workers regarding formaldehyde related health hazards from FEMA-provided trailers. This is reminiscent of the reassurances New Yorkers received in the aftermath of 9-11 about the safety of their air.
Let's not let the diversionary tactics of Foti and the like distract us from the real culprits. Rather than allowing the persecution of a fine physician to continue, let's focus on the colossal failures of our government in protecting vulnerable citizens and its shameful cover-ups.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Bacteria Talk. . .to Dr. Bonnie Bassler

I had the pleasure of watching the Nova segment last night about
Dr. Bonnie Bassler's work on communication between bacteria.
While I was somewhat familiar with this work, known as quorum
sensing, I was unaware of how it might be used to combat
infections by disrupting the communication between the bacteria.
The program also showed a fascinating glimpse of a brilliant
woman scientist. It was inspiring to hear of her background and
evolution. Being all too attuned to the particular difficulties women
have in the sciences, I was especially impressed by her achievements.
I would encourage anyone interested in biology or medicine to watch this clip
on bacterial communication, which is available on-line. I hope
that young women, especially, will learn of Dr. Bassler's story
and important research.