Dr. Anna Pou: Hero, Criminal, or Victim?


  • Maya David Tulane University


When Hurricane Katrina devastated the city of New Orleans, Memorial Medical Center faced a terrible crisis. The hospital’s generators stopped working, rescue helicopters were scarce, and patients began dying from not only their illnesses but also dehydration and a lack of resources. Dr. Anna Pou, the only female physician on duty, had the challenge of deciding what action to take for the LifeCare Unit patients, dying elderly people living out their last days, who had little chance of survival. After two evacuations and enacting an emergency triage plan, the staff and remaining patients began losing hope. If Pou decided to euthanize the LifeCare Unit patients, or perhaps simply sedate them, would she still be remaining loyal to the Hippocratic Oath? Is she legally responsible for this decision during such extenuating circumstances? In addition, why should the blame be placed on the one person who took charge during the crisis? People are not used to seeing women in leadership positions, let alone straying from the stereotype of being “nurturers.”