Were hospitals responsible for patient deaths during Hurricane Katrina?


A jury is about to decide how far hospitals have to go to protect themselves against natural disasters.

It all starts in New Orleans, during the Hurricane Katrina disaster. Hospital generators were not protected against floods, and predictably, that contributed to the loss of power during the category 5 hurricane. If all hospitals were to protect their generators appropriately, it’s estimated that it would cost millions to do so.

There are now about 200 lawsuits against medical institutions in Louisiana alleging that they should have done more to protect themselves against the disaster. And, according to the state Supreme Court, these are considered “general negligence” claims, as opposed to medical malpractice ones, which would have been subject to a cap.  This substantially raises the hospital’s liability.

If successful, there are far-reaching complications for already cash-strapped hospitals. How far should they go to protect themselves against every conceivable catastrophe? What about a terrorist attack, for instance?

A line has to be drawn somewhere, as it is impossible for medical institutions to foresee every scenario. And we’re about to find out where it lies.


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