In the midst of administering chest compressions to a dying woman
several days after Hurricane Katrina struck, Dr. Mark N. Perlmutter was ordered
to stop by a federal official because he wasn't registered with the Federal
Emergency Management Agency. "I begged him to let me continue," said Perlmutter,
who left his home and practice as an orthopedic surgeon in Pennsylvania to come
to Louisiana and volunteer to care for hurricane victims. "People were dying,
and I was the only doctor on the tarmac (at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans
International Airport) where scores of nonresponsive patients lay on stretchers.
Two patients died in front of me.
"I showed him (the U.S. Coast Guard official in charge) my medical
credentials. I had tried to get through to FEMA for 12 hours the day before and
finally gave up. I asked him to let me stay until I was replaced by another
doctor, but he refused. He said he was afraid of being sued. I informed him
about the Good Samaritan laws and asked him if he was willing to let people die
so the government wouldn't be sued, but he would not back down. I had to
In a formal response to Perlmutter's story, FEMA said it does not accept the
services of volunteer physicians:
"We have a cadre of physicians of our own," FEMA spokesman Kim Pease
said Thursday. "They are the National Disaster Medical Team. ... The voluntary
doctor was not a credentialed FEMA physician and, thus, was subject to law
enforcement rules in a disaster area."
So for those of you who draw the conclusion from Katrina that we need more big government rather than less, that would help.... how?
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