Doctor says FEMA ordered him to stop treating hurricane victims - Independent Media TV
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 leave."
FEMA issued a formal response to Perlmutter's story, acknowledging that the agency does not use voluntary 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."
A Coast Guard spokesman said he was looking into the incident but was not able to confirm it.
Perlmutter, Dr. Clark Gerhart and medical student Alison Torrens flew into Baton Rouge on a private jet loaned by a Pennsylvania businessman several days after Katrina hit. They brought medicine and supplies with them. They stayed the first night in Baton Rouge and persuaded an Army Blackhawk helicopter pilot to fly them into New Orleans the next day.
"I was going to make it happen," the orthopedic surgeon said. "I was at Ground Zero too, and I had to lie to get in there."