Medical societies weigh in on case of New Orleans doc

After two months of not commenting on the arrest of Dr. Anna Pou, a Louisiana otolaryngologist accused by the Louisiana Attorney General's office of euthanizing patients at Memorial Medical Center in the days following Hurricane Katrina, the American Medical Association (AMA) and Louisiana State Medical Society (LSMS) issued statements within days of each other in late September, expressing solid support for Pou.

Pou and two nurses, Lori Budo and Cheri Landry, were arrested and taken from their homes late at night in July. Under Louisiana law, they need not be formally charged before they are arrested, and as of press time have not been charged with crimes. However, Attorney General Charles Foti has stated that he believes his office has uncovered enough evidence for the Orleans Parish District Attorney to charge the three health care providers with murder in the deaths of four patients, who prosecutors say died from a combination of sedatives and painkillers.

In the weeks following the arrests, both the AMA and the LSMS withheld releasing any statements beyond expressing support for all medical personnel who cared for patients after the hurricane, and stating their intentions to withhold judgment pending the completion of the criminal investigation.

However, both organizations issued statements during the last week of September, and stated support for Pou — the LSMS with comments more strongly worded.

"[The] Louisiana State Medical Society is confident that Dr. Pou performed courageously under the most challenging and horrific conditions and made decisions in the best interest of her patients," LSMS President Floyd Buras, MD, said. "Her recent statements regarding the events clearly show her dedication to providing care and hope to her patients when all hope seemed abandoned."

Buras' statement continued, stressing that Pou's career "should not be tarnished as a result of these accusations."

"The Louisiana State Medical Society will continue to support Dr. Pou as she has always supported her patients. The LSMS commends the valiant efforts of Dr. Pou, along with the many other dedicated health care professionals, who stayed behind to provide medical care during and following Hurricane Katrina," Buras concluded.

Cecil B. Wilson, MD, chairman of the AMA board, stated that the AMA will closely monitor the Pou case, and that she remains an AMA member in good standing.

"The facts of this case appear complex, remain under investigation, and based on media reports, are sharply contested," said Wilson. "The AMA is very proud of the many heroic physicians and other health care professionals who sacrificed and distinguished themselves in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. We believe these physicians served as bright lights during New Orleans' darkest hour."

The AMA statement can be found at www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/category/16876.html; the LSMS statement is available at www.lsms.org.