Katrina Doctor Not a Murderer, Grand Jury Says

It was a shocking allegation. A respected cancer surgeon and two nurses were accused last year of the mercy killing of four of the sickest patients at Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

After they remained under a cloud of suspicion for more than a year, a grand jury today refused to return an indictment against Dr. Anna Pou.

The New Orleans district attorney's office had argued that Pou and her colleagues killed the patients with a "lethal cocktail" of narcotics and tranquilizers -- despite the fact that no toxicology results from the patients' bodies indicated their deaths had been homicides.

Greg Beuerman, a spokesman for Pou, described her reaction today as "ecstatic, but not surprised."

"I think it is noteworthy that throughout this whole process -- since April -- the only evidence presented to the grand jury was provided by the state and the attorney general," Beuerman told ABC News. "We never came to a defense, and the grand jury concluded that Dr. Pou did nothing wrong. We are thrilled that this chapter is finally over."

Maintaining Innocence

Pou has maintained her innocence for over a year, telling ABC News' Law & Justice Unit in 2006 that she administered pain medication to the patients only in an effort to ease their suffering.

"I did not kill any of those patients," Pou told ABC News. "What we did was take care of those patients to the best of our abilities … The intent was to palliate pain."

Pou told ABC News that she does not believe in euthanasia and that in retrospect, she would not have changed any of her treatment.

"I would not have done anything differently," Pou said. "We know as physicians that when we give pain medicine to patients that are suffering and dying that there is always a possibility that this could hasten their death. That is not the intent."

Pou said she and her colleagues, nurses Cheri Landry and Lori Budo, did everything in their power to comfort those trapped in the hospital for days after the 2005 hurricane, in what have been described as "Third World" conditions.

"I never believed I would be in a situation like that in a hospital I was so familiar with," Budo told ABC News in 2006. "Some of the hallways were so dark that when you walked down the hallway you had to run your hand along the wall to see where you were. And this was hallways that I'd been familiar with since I was a child -- it was unbelievable."

Fellow nurse Cheri Landry said that she, too, could never have prepared for such conditions. "This was totally unprecedented and unimaginable," she said last year. "We had nothing, not even the bare necessities."

The charges against the two nurses were dropped after they testified before a grand jury last month. Pou, however, has waited a year -- without practicing medicine -- to find out whether charges would be brought against her.

Questions Still Unanswered

"It's devastating to me that I can meet someone on the street and they can look at me and say, 'Is she a murderer?'" Pou told ABC News. More than a year later, that fear can begin to be alleviated.

"What lies ahead for Dr. Pou remains to be seen," Beuerman told ABC News today. "She is eager to get back to her practice but also needs to take time to be with her family and her friends."

As for those who died at Memorial, "We understand that there are family members of people who died whose questions are still unanswered," Beuerman said, "We believe that the DA did a disservice to those families by telling them that he somehow knew why they died. That was obviously not the case."

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