Minyard Calls Memorial Death "Unclassified"


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“I hope this is the end of it,” said New Orleans Coroner Dr. Frank Minyard today when he declared Jannie Burgess’s death unclassified and it’s cause undetermined. Burgess died at Memorial Medical Center in the days following Hurricane Katrina when the hospital was flooded and without power. Before dying, Burgess was injected with morphine seven times, but the coroner said the 79-year-old patient was extremely ill — suffering from kidney and liver failure.

“We don’t feel that has contributed to her death,” Minyard said regarding the injections. “We feel it may have some minor contribution.” Minyard added that death from a morphine overdose usually occurs immediately, but Burgess died three hours later.

This death and others lead to an investigation and eventual second-degree murder charges against Memorial Medical Center’s Dr. Anna Pou and two nurses. Then Louisiana Attorney General Charles Foti accused Pou and the nurses of killing as many as nine patients, but in July 2007, a grand jury decided not to pursue the charges.

The controversy surrounding the Memorial deaths resurfaced late last year after an article by ProPublica reporter and medical doctor Sheri Fink. In Fink’s story, Dr. Ewing Cook, a senior physician at the hospital, admitted to hastening Burgess’s death: “I gave her medicine so I could get rid of her faster, get the nurses off the floor.”

As part of his investigation, Minyard said he tried to interview Cook, but his attorney, Ralph Capitelli, advised against it.


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