The case ‘Ethical dilemmas of decision making in a crisis: Tragedy at Memorial Medical Center, New Orleans’ describes the moral dilemmas faced by the leaders, doctors, and nurses of Memorial Medical Center (Memorial), New Orleans, during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The case starts out with a background note on Memorial, which was founded in 1926. The hospital encompassed all the modern conveniences and had protected patients against all the unpredictable problems the Gulf’s weather systems had thrown up over the years. It then discusses Hurricane Katrina, a category 5 hurricane, which made landfall on Florida and Louisiana, particularly the city of New Orleans and surrounding areas, in August 2005. Katrina was the costliest hurricane to ever hit the US, surpassing the record previously held by Hurricane Andrew which hit Florida in 1992. The case then describes the situation at Memorial during Hurricane Katrina. The hospital had no electricity, running water, or air conditioning. The temperature shot up to more than 110 degrees Fahrenheit and the putrid smell of dead bodies burnt the back of the throat. Both chaos and heroism defined the scenes at Memorial; Memorial staff worked around the clock with few provisions to sustain them. Further, the case discusses the decision of the hospital leaders that patients with do-not-resuscitate (DNR) orders should get the lowest priority as they had the least to lose. It then describes the triage conducted by Dr. Anna Marie Pou (Dr. Pou), a well-regarded head and neck surgeon. Later, Dr. Pou along with two nurses Cheri Landry, and Lori Budo, euthanized the DNR patients although there was still hope of evacuation. The case ends with a discussion on the arrest of Dr. Pou, Cheri Landry, and Lori Budo for second-degree murder..
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The case is structured to achieve the following teaching objectives:
Apply a framework for decision making in a crisis.
Examine ethical dilemmas during a crisis.
Understand the concept of ethics, morality, and values.
Analyze the consequences of ambiguous leadership authority.
Learn the ingredients for being an effective leader in challenging environments.
Develop a crisis response plan.
Understand and critically assess the nature of disaster situations and their impact.
Identify strategies to manage a disaster situation.
Memorial medical center, New Orleans; Hurricane Katrina; Ethical dilemmas; Dr. Anna Marie Pou; Crisis response plan; Ambiguous leadership authority; Triage decisions; Abandonment and euthanasia of critical pateints; the Louisiana Supreme Court trial