Hurricane Katrina and Medical Choice in Extreme Emergencies

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Just four years ago, Hurricane Katrina cut off electricity to New Orleans' Memorial Medical Center.  Emergency generators failed. The temperature was 100°, there was no fresh water or sewage, and flooding around a heavily damaged building created major problems for evacuating patients. Doctors were forced to conduct triage. If some patients had to be left behind, should the healthiest or closest to dying be first for evacuation? Should those likely to die be euthanized? Who should make these decisions? With a possible influenza pandemic this fall, lack of sufficient facilities just might pose similar choices. We hear how the Katrina disaster has shaped future planning. Is the public being kept informed?



  • Sheri Fink - correspondent for the New York Times; author of “Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital”
  • Peter Kovacs - Managing Editor, Times Picayune
  • Marianne Matzo - Chair of Palliative Care Department, University of Oklahoma College of Nursing
  • Uwe Reinhardt - Princeton University - @uwejreinhardt


Warren Olney