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Doctor cleared in Katrina hospital deaths

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Prosecutor: "Justice has been served. ... I'm not here to second-guess"
  • Lawyer says Dr. Anna Pou, patients were "abandoned by their government"
  • Pou was accused of killing patients in the chaos after Hurricane Katrina
  • Two nurses arrested in same case had charges dropped earlier
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NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (CNN) -- The doctor at the center of an investigation into patients' deaths after Hurricane Katrina said everyone must remember the "magnitude of human suffering" after the storm to ensure that no health care worker is ever "falsely accused in a rush to judgment."

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Dr. Anna Pou said Tuesday she hopes to return to work doing what she "loves to do best."

"Today's events are not a triumph, but a moment of remembrance for those who lost their lives in the storm and a tribute to all of those who stayed at their posts and served people most in need," Dr. Anna Pou said after a grand jury decided Tuesday not to pursue criminal charges against her.

Pou and two nurses -- Cheri Landry and Lori Budo -- were arrested in July 2006 after a 10-month investigation into the deaths at New Orleans' Memorial Medical Center.

Pou's lawyer, Rick Simmons, said she and her patients were "abandoned" by all levels of government.

"The certificates of death in these individual patients should read 'abandoned by their government.' That's what happened here," he said.

Pou said she hopes to return to work doing what she "loves to do best."

She fought back tears as she thanked those who have stood by her during the past 23 "challenging and painful" months.

Louisiana Attorney General Charles C. Foti charged the doctor and two nurses with second-degree murder.

Landry and Budo were recently given immunity in exchange for their grand jury testimony. Video Watch what led up to grand jury's decision »

Pou, Landry and Budo denied the charges, and their attorneys have said they acted heroically, staying to treat patients rather than evacuate.

Foti accused the three of involvement in as many as nine deaths at the hospital.

The investigation concluded that patients were given a "lethal cocktail" of morphine and midazolam hydrochloride, both central nervous system depressants, he said.

None of the patients had been prescribed the drugs by their caregivers, and none of the accused treated them before the injections, Foti said.

"This was not euthanasia," Foti said at a news conference last summer. "This was homicide."

Foti said he turned his findings over to Orleans Parish District Attorney Eddie Jordan, who was required by law either to file charges or reject the case.

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Instead, Jordan impaneled a grand jury and vowed to let it decide what charges, if any, should be sought. Jordan also directed New Orleans Coroner Frank Minyard to hire outside forensic experts to review the case.

On Tuesday, Foti acknowledged that "in our system, justice has been served. The grand jury has made its decision. ... I'm not here to second-guess what the court says."

But he noted that none of the alleged victims' relatives and none of five medical experts who independently concluded the deaths were homicides were called to testify before the grand jury.

Asked her feelings about Foti, Pou said, "I'm really putting Mr. Foti in God's hands," adding that she continues to pray for the ability to forgive him.

CNN first reported the allegations of euthanasia months after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast and triggered flooding in New Orleans two years ago.

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Patients, staff and their families rode out Katrina. But four days after the hurricane hit, despair was setting in. The hospital was surrounded by floodwater. There was no power or water, and the heat was stifling. Food was running low, and nurses were forced to fan patients by hand.

Simmons said Pou is still facing lawsuits filed by relatives of three of the patients who died. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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