Does lack of an evacuation plan constitute malpractice?

A hurricane Katrina patient with pneumonia died, and the hospital is being sued for lack of an evacuation plan:

Pneumonia patient Althea Lacoste walked into Methodist Hospital with her portable ventilator a day before Hurricane Katrina struck and died there before rescuers arrived at the flooded, powerless building in eastern New Orleans.

The question now before the Louisiana Supreme Court: Was the hospital’s alleged lack of an adequate backup power system and evacuation plan an issue of medical malpractice?

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  • Justin

    Heck no, not after hurricane Katrina. What do the sons propose was the proper course of action? To load the old woman onto a bus and start driving out of NO? The bus would have run out of gas fighting traffic, and no gas=no electricity for life support.

    Maybe they could have helicoptered Critical Patients out, but that would have been a limited resource: who decides who leaves and who stays?

    With a disaster like Katrina, what more can be hoped for than to sit tight and pray. Healthy people were unable to get out of the city. What chance did these patients have?

  • Anonymous

    If hospital succeeds in making this a med mal case, but then loses, then med mal rates go up. If they fail, then it opens medical facilites up to more torts that fall out of their med mal insurance and out of the cap. For doctors and hospitals in Louisiana it is “Heads you win and tails I lose.”

  • Dr Scott

    I assume the plaintiffs are also suing the Army Corps of Engineers, the state of Louisiana, the city of New Orleans, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency for their role in the “malpractice” as well.

    (Responsibility? Check. Injury? Check. Failure to meet appropriate standards, causing said injury? Check. Sounds like potential malpractice to me.)

    Oh, wait, that’s right. They can’t sue the government. So they’ll just go after the hospital instead. After all, someone must pay.

  • Anonymous

    So what was her evacuation plan? Head to a local hospital?
    No responsible person should have been in the city the day before the hurricane hit. Those with substantial medical needs (e.g. home ventilator) should have left days earlier to secure the uninterrupted care required by chronic health conditions.
    But then there’s no money in personal responsibility; though in this case the reward for personal initiative might have been life.

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