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The Case of Memorial Hospital

Crisis and emergencies can lead to dramatic consequences if there are no effective emergency plans that are followed in healthcare facilities. However, the example of Memorial Hospital in New Orleans demonstrates that these plans should have strict ethical and practical instructions, and the staff should be trained to work in extremely critical situations. One should state that feeling similar pressures, it is almost impossible to expect ethically and professionally right or correct actions if strict and detailed instructions are not provided. The purpose of this discussion is to focus on the case of Memorial Hospital in detail.

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The analysis of the situation at Memorial Hospital indicates that the staff was misled by leaders and administrations because of ineffective and unethical decisions and behaviors that were observed. It is possible to be shocked by the choice of administering lethal injections of morphine because this unethical decision could be avoided in the first stages of the crisis. If the administration had an effective emergency plan and made the right decisions, the situation would be avoided (Boin & Nieuwenburg, 2013). The reason is that the sickest and terminally ill patients should have been evacuated as soon as possible, and there were no adequate arguments to conclude that some patients would be abandoned in the hospital.

The most shocking aspects of this situation are decisions made by the administration and leaders responsible for decision making in critical situations. Their choices and action plans were rather unprofessional and unethical (Gutman & Yon, 2014). Even if Memorial Hospital had no appropriate emergency plan to guide the staff, decisions might be made concerning standard ethical norms because the case demonstrates the subjective interpretation of ethical principles by Dr. Cook and Dr. Pou.

Legal and ethical standards followed by the healthcare staff in crises should be the same as principles followed under normal conditions, or they should be even more patient-oriented. There cannot be any “gray area” in ethics related to disasters. The sickest patients who require immediate care and assistance should be saved first because other patients have more chances to survive the disaster (Gutman & Yon, 2014). All administrators and leaders are responsible for making decisions in this case in the context of ethics guidelines.

It is possible to state that the hospital owners and administrators are most responsible for a dramatic situation at Memorial Hospital because they did not provide their staff with training and resources to address crises, and there were no effective instructions in the emergency plan. As a result, the lack of an effective plan of action during evacuations or situations of the power loss led to compelling other administrators and leaders to making ineffective decisions because of having no support and resources to address the situation (Boin & Nieuwenburg, 2013). Thus, the primary cause of the problem is hospital owners and administrators’ decisions, and the secondary dramatic cause of the situation is Dr. Cook’s and Dr. Pou’s decisions.

From an organizational perspective, the learned lessons include the necessity of developing detailed emergency plans, providing training for the staff, and reformulating ethical guidelines. From a professional perspective, important lessons include the necessity of following ethical and legal principles strictly. In cases of ethical dilemmas, it is important to evaluate the situation from all perspectives and avoid harming patients.


Boin, A., & Nieuwenburg, P. (2013). The moral costs of discretionary decision-making in crisis: Hurricane Katrina and the Memorial Hospital tragedy. Public Integrity, 15(4), 367-384.

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Gutman, G. M., & Yon, Y. (2014). Elder abuse and neglect in disasters: Types, prevalence and research gaps. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, 10(1), 38-47.

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