Public Health Expert Witness Testifies Re: Hurricane Katrina Nursing Home Deaths

Dr. Brobson Lutz, a New Orleans physician and public health expert, was the first expert witness called in the St. Rita’s nursing home trial. Sal and Mabel Mangano are charged with negligent homicide in the deaths of 35 residents who drowned in their nursing home during Hurricane Katrina. Defense attorneys contend the Manganos feared some residents might not survive an evacuation. The public health expert witness testified that “The bottom line on all the research is that there is no evidence-based proof that you actually save lives by evacuating patients from nursing homes,” he said. The also reports the expert stating:

Medical studies on nursing home evacuations show that the number of elderly residents in an evacuated region who die in transit is about the same as the number who would have been killed by the storm if they hadn’t left.

It was clear from the physician’s testimony that he was speaking about nursing home evacuations as a broad public health issue and was not suggesting that 35 residents would have died on the roads had they been rushed from St. Rita’s as the hurricane approached in late August of 2005.