Toss Away Story About Wholesale Euthanasia In New Orleans
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
September 20, 2005
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA--My mother used to say, "You can't believe everything you read."
For the last several days, I've been reading a number of news articles telling much the same horrific story -- that medical professionals in a New Orleans hospital chose to kill critically ill survivors of Hurricane Katrina to keep them from suffering in the days after the storm.
Most of the stories, which appeared on several alternative websites, blogs, and email groups, eventually point back to a Sunday, September 11 article published by Britain's The Mail, considered by many to be a tabloid newspaper similar to the National Enquirer.
The first time I read the stories, and looked at their sources, my myth-busting antennae went up. Since then, I've spent several hours researching the story, and in my mind, those who track down the origins of urban legends have shot holes through it big enough to walk through.
The Mail's reporters described how unnamed doctors at the unnamed hospital ignored the law, years of medical training, and their own consciences to give massive doses of pain-killing morphine to an unknown number of patients who "had no chance of making it".
The Mail said it was protecting the identities of the medical staff "to prevent them being made scapegoats". The paper noted that euthanasia, or "mercy killing", is illegal in Louisiana, not to mention 49 other states (even Oregon's physician-assisted suicide law would not allow for "emergency" euthanasia in a crisis).
Any newspaper that openly admits protecting criminals, even "to prevent them from being made scapegoats", is suspect in my mind. So is one that claims that the story is corroborated by an unnamed hospital orderly. There is also some doubt that the one "emergency official" quoted in the story, identified as "William 'Forest' McQueen", even exists, or at least is an "emergency official". For example, the article inconveniently leaves out McQueen's title or rank, and what agency, squad or department he belonged to.
Unfortunately, the Mail's claim that it is protecting the doctors has left it nearly impossible for anyone outside their office to verify the story. This, along with many inconsistencies in the story, has left many, including myself, to conclude that it is either out-of-hand sensationalism or an out-and-out hoax.
Now, don't get me wrong. I don't doubt that the deaths of some people in New Orleans were "hurried" along, as I believe happens every day to persons with disabilities and severe and chronic illnesses in nursing homes and hospitals across the country.
And we know of enough true horror stories -- from reputable news sources -- including the story that some nursing home operators fled to higher ground and left residents with no way to escape the rising flood and the stifling heat.
But this report of wholesale euthanasia is a story that ought to be sent straight to the recycle bin, until and unless it can be verified as true.
"We had to kill our patients" (The Mail on Sunday)
Blog: "Active euthanasia in New Orleans: An urban legend in the making?" (Respectful Insolence)
Urban Legends Message Boards: "We had to kill our patients"
Other disability related Hurricane Katrina articles on today's Below the Fold page: