Tragedy at Memorial Hospital: Were the right decisions made?

Looking back at the tragedy at Memorial Hospital, it is easy to criticize certain actions. For example, I was wondering if there was a possibly to evacuate prior to the storm, or make sure the hospital had a functioning generator that would work for an extended period of time. Now, let’s say none of those options were viable. Did the medical professionals and staff members make the right decision when deciding who got evacuated from memorial?

I believe the answer is yes. Given the circumstances, Dr. Pou and her associates acted with composure and tried to land on the best possible outcome. Due to the fact that there was not sufficient help and resources, it was inevitable that some might not make it out. According to Pou, she was “trying to do the most good with a limited pool of resources.” Although I recognize the outage from those of the deceased victims, the magnitude of this disaster was unlike any other in recent memory. Traditional triage systems call for the patients in the worst health to be evacuated first, while the healthier patients wait. This is the opposite of what happened. Given the severity of the situation, it was likely that they severely ill patients would not have survived the trip to the new hospital, let alone the horrible conditions. Additionally, when initially making this decision to evacuate patients with a D.N.R last, it was still believed that every single patient would be evacuated. However, this turned out not to be the case. According to Dr. Diechmann, the doctor who initially floated this idea, “I believed they should go last because they would have had the ‘least to lose’ compared with other patients if calamity struck.” I think this reasoning is valid, because the doctors were trying to ensure that the least loss of life occurred. This is similar to Dr. Pou’s statements following Katrina. She said, “No, I did not murder those patients. Mr. Safer, I’ve spent my entire life taking care of patients” (60 Minutes). This shows that the doctors were just trying to make the best decision based on their judgement of the situation. I believe they were successful in doing so, as there were over 2,000 people who needed to be evacuated, and a high number of patients survived the transport. I recognize that difficulty of this decision, but ultimately, I think the decisions made by the doctors in Memorial Hospital allowed for the best possible outcome in this awful situation.


11 thoughts on “Tragedy at Memorial Hospital: Were the right decisions made?

  1. I agree with your claim because of the abnormality of the situation and the different potential solutions that exist to this problem. It is unreasonable to expect doctors to know exactly what to do in a circumstance like this because the rarity of a hurricane this catastrophic. The difficulty of the decisions made during Hurricane Katrina was proven by the court case that followed. How are doctors supposed to make these spontaneous decisions if the court could not distinguish which actions would produce the best outcome?

    I believe you could improve your argument by adding the perspective of the judge. At the end of the trial he stated, “’I strongly do not believe she planned to kill anybody, but it looks like she did'”(Fink). After reading this quote, I interpreted that the judge was unsure of his decision so he went with the facts. I believe that the reason he could not make up his mind is because he was not there. The doctor claimed that she did her best and its extremely hard for am judge to criticize someone for doing what they believe is right. If people do not agree with her view, then they should speak to the hospital about there hiring process. I believe the anonymity of this situation would be a beneficial addition to your argument.

  2. It is extremely easy to judge the actions of medical professionals and hospital staff members as a witness after a terrible disaster has occurred. Although this seems obvious, it is worth noting because these specialized doctors face the most criticism in these situations even though they are well intentioned. I agree with you, Dr. Pou made justifiable decisions in a limited time frame to provide efficient help and support to a large number of people. A question I pose is, was the potential destruction of Hurricane Katrina underestimated prior to the storm and if not, why weren’t more people evacuated? Not only would this guaranty safety for more people, but it would also decrease the stress and trouble the hospitals faced during the time of the disaster. After doing further research I have found that there were in fact evacuation plans set by the city that had unfortunately fell apart. Lauren Sullivan of the National Public Radio reported in 2005 after the storm, “New Orleans city officials had an emergency evacuation plan. For those with cars, head north. All freeway traffic would be one-way out of town. For those who couldn’t get out on their own, Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell says city buses would pick them up” ( She later goes on to explain that due to traffic and time, people migrated towards the Superdome as a form of refuge. Now relating this back to your post, I believe it is unfair to place such a great blame on medical professionals, when such a large part of the breakdown is hospital efficiency was due to a lack of support and coordination from the city.
    I also agree with your perspective on the way Dr. Diechmann handled the DNR patients. Although it may be seen as unfair to some people, I take the view of a consequentialist utilitarian and say, decisions must be made to provide the greatest overall intrinsic value to the greatest number of people than any alternative action would provide and I believe that is what happened.

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