March 11th, 2010
03:10 PM ET

Coroner: Post-Katrina hospital death not homicide

After reviewing the case of a woman who died at New Orleans, Louisiana's Memorial Hospital in the days following Hurricane Katrina, coroner Frank Minyard said Thursday he cannot classify her death as a homicide.

Minyard said he hopes his findings on the death of Jannie Burgess, 79, will mark "the end of the Memorial Hospital hurricane situation."

The review was initiated after an August 2009 New York Times article quoted a doctor as saying Memorial patients were given morphine and other drugs after Katrina struck in August of 2005, with hospital staff knowing it could hasten some of the patients' deaths.

Burgess' manner of death is unclassified, the coroner said, and the cause of her death undetermined.

"I don't think, and I could be wrong, I don't think the morphine contributed as much to her demise as her physical condition," said Minyard, who's served as the coroner of Orleans Parish since 1974.

"This patient was extremely sick," Minyard said of Burgess. "The woman had had surgery a week before and had been on "morphine around the clock. She'd had kidney failure. She'd had liver failure." She also had developed sepsis, or blood poisoning, he said.

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soundoff (One Response)
  1. Dan

    I think the coroner's job is to be an expert on cause of death not to make a statement about the issue as a whole and be political. Bothered me.

    March 11, 2010 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |