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.