NEW ORLEANS – A state medical organization on Wednesday came out strongly in support of the Louisiana physician accused of killing four critically ill patients at Memorial Medical Center in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Dr. Anna Pou and nurses Cheri Landry and Lori Budo, were arrested and booked on second-degree murder after an investigation by Louisiana Attorney General Charles Foti, who said the trio injected a lethal cocktail of sedatives into the four bedridden patients, after determining they were too ill to be moved.
"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," said a statement from LSMS President Dr. Floyd A. Buras. The statement was released Wednesday.
The statement came on the same day Memorial reopened its New Orleans Heart and Surgery Institute. But the main building remains closed.
The doctor and two nurses have not been formally charged, pending the outcome of a New Orleans grand jury investigation.
Speaking Sunday night on the television show "60 Minutes," Pou emphatically denied killing the patients.
"No, I did not murder those patients," said Pou, who's been practicing medicine for more than 15 years. "I've spent my entire life taking care of patients. I have no history of doing anything other than good for my patients. I do the best of my ability. Why, would I suddenly start murdering people? It doesn't make sense."
The LSMS statement said that Pou has a long and distinguished career as a "talented surgeon and dedicated educator" which should not be tarnished by the accusations against her.
"Her recent statements regarding the events clearly show her dedication to providing care and hope to her patients when all hope seemed abandoned," the statement said.
On Monday the American Medical Association issued a statement saying it would continue to monitor the case closely.
"The facts of this case appear complex, remain under investigation, and based on media reports, are sharply contested," the statement said.
The AMA said it has a policy on several of the issues in the investigation, including encouragement of physician involvement in disaster preparedness and a doctor's obligation to relieve pain and suffering.
The organization also opposes the "criminalization of medical judgment," the statement said.
Foti released a statement late Wednesday detailing the scope of the investigation and pointing out that many hospitals were in trouble after the hurricane.
"However, this is the only hospital where doctors, nurses and other health care professionals and witnesses on the scene reported suspicious deaths of patients," Foti's statement said. "Many came forward and reported to us after witnessing events they believed were wrong and against ethical and legal standards."
Foti said he believes in the presumption of innocence, and does not want the case tried in the media "where the defense seems to want it argued."
Pou's attorney, Rick Simmons, said he has only been trying to counter Foti's comments at a news conference in which Foti called Pou a murderer and said she was playing God.
"When the prosecutor makes those type of comments it's appropriate for the defense to respond," Simmons said. "I was only responding to his effort to prejudice the public through the media."