Special Report: Katrina Deaths

Tenet distances itself from hospital, accused clinicians

The murder accusations against clinicians at Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans are another blow to the troubled Tenet Healthcare Corp., based in Dallas. The company immediately issued a statement that attempted to distance itself from the controversy.

"If proven true, these allegations are very disturbing. Euthanasia is repugnant to everything we believe as ethical health care providers, and it violates every precept of ethical behavior and the law. It is never permissible under any circumstances," the statement says. "We strongly believe that the judicial process must run its course before any judgments can be made about what did or did not happen in the harrowing days after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans. We have assisted the Louisiana attorney general in all aspects of his investigation. If the allegations are proven true, the doctor and nurses named by the attorney general made these decisions without the knowledge, approval, or acquiescence of the hospital or their key physician leaders."

The statement goes on to say, "We will never forget the courageous actions of many, many physicians and caregivers at Memorial Medical Center, who worked under incredibly difficult circumstances to care for and evacuate patients in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, with little or no help from local, state, or federal authorities. More than 2,000 people, including nearly 300 patients, survived the natural disaster thanks to their bravery and dedication, and the assistance of people throughout Tenet."

The company does not need another crisis that could damage its reputation as a health care provider. In June 2006, Tenet agreed to pay $725 million to settle charges that it had duped the Medicare system to collect excessive reimbursement amounts. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Tenet announced that it had agreed to sell Memorial Medical Center, which has been closed since the hurricane, and two other New Orleans Hospitals to Ochsner Health System of New Orleans.

The New Orleans facility was among 11 that the company said it would divest as part of a plan to fund the government settlement and improve Tenet's future profitability.