Dr.Anna Pou, the US cancer surgeon, has at last won a reprieve. A grand jury on Tuesday decided she would not be indicted in the Katrina case.
Two nurses and her were accused last year of the mercy killing of four of the sickest patients at Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in August 2005.
AdvertisementCharges against the nurses, Lori Budo and Cheri Landry, were dropped last month.
Thus for the trio the post-Katrina trauma seems to be coming to an end.
The Orleans Parish grand jury had been investigating the charges since March last year.
Assistant District Attorney Michael Morales, who conducted the grand jury hearings, had asked the grand jurors to return one charge of second-degree murder and nine of murder conspiracy.
The grand jurors sat calmly while the judge read the possible charges and each response of "no true bill."
When the levees broke in New Orleans following the hurricane's landfall, 80 percent of the city flooded. The lower level of Memorial Medical Center was under 10 feet of water, and electricity was out across the city. Inside the hospital, the temperature topped 100 degrees.
At least 34 people died at Memorial, many from dehydration during the four-day wait for rescuers to evacuate them.
The four Pou was accused of killing ranged in age from 61 to 90.
The New Orleans district attorney's office had argued that Pou and her colleagues killed the patients with a "lethal cocktail" of narcotics and tranquilizers -- despite the fact that no toxicology results from the patients' bodies indicated their deaths had been homicides.
Greg Beuerman, a spokesman for Pou, described her reaction today as "ecstatic, but not surprised."
"I think it is noteworthy that throughout this whole process -- since April -- the only evidence presented to the grand jury was provided by the state and the attorney general," Beuerman told ABC News. "We never came to a defense, and the grand jury concluded that Dr. Pou did nothing wrong. We are thrilled that this chapter is finally over."
Pou has maintained her innocence, asserting that she administered pain medication to the patients only in an effort to ease their suffering.
"I did not kill any of those patients," Pou had said last year in an interview. "What we did was take care of those patients to the best of our abilities ... The intent was to palliate pain."
She said that she did not believe in euthanasia and that in retrospect, she would not have changed any of her treatment.
"I would not have done anything differently," Pou said. "We know as physicians that when we give pain medicine to patients that are suffering and dying that there is always a possibility that this could hasten their death. That is not the intent."
Pou said she and her colleagues, nurses Cheri Landry and Lori Budo, did everything in their power to comfort those trapped in the hospital for days after the 2005 hurricane, in what have been described as "Third World" conditions.
"I never believed I would be in a situation like that in a hospital I was so familiar with," Budo said in an interview last year. "Some of the hallways were so dark that when you walked down the hallway you had to run your hand along the wall to see where you were. And this was hallways that I'd been familiar with since I was a child -- it was unbelievable."
Fellow nurse Cheri Landry said that she, too, could never have prepared for such conditions. "This was totally unprecedented and unimaginable," she said last year. "We had nothing, not even the bare necessities."
"It's devastating to me that I can meet someone on the street and they can look at me and say, 'Is she a murderer?'" Pou had agonized last year.
"What lies ahead for Dr. Pou remains to be seen," Beuerman said. "She is eager to get back to her practice but also needs to take time to be with her family and her friends."