Unconscionable Stories

If you saw this man crying on Meet the Press this morning, like I did, you shed a tear for his story and felt his pain and anger as if they were your own.

And if you read about this story of despair, you, like me, might have been hoping against hope that it somehow wasn’t true.

But nothing, in the plethora of grim tales of disaster, compares with a terrible incident recounted to me as the week drew to a close. There was a 380-pound man stranded on the seventh floor of a New Orleans hospital. Unable to get him down five flights of stairs to the second-floor exit, through which other patients were being evacuated onto rescue boats to escape the rising floodwater, a female manager took a shocking decision. She ordered that he be given euthanasia.

A bearded, middle-aged doctor, who is still wearing his green hospital garb, tells me the sad story as he and his colleagues sit at the muddy, squalid refugee-receiving post on New Orleans’ I10 Highway. He does not want to give me his name and will not identify the patient out of respect.

But he wants people to know what happened in there. His lower jaw quivers as he recalls the events of Wednesday night.

“We had minutes to get out, and I asked, ‘What are we going to do about this guy, because he’s a big man. It was going to be tough getting him down those stairs – the elevators weren’t working. That woman turned to me and said straight out, ‘We’re going to help him to heaven’. It makes me want to break down, how that man’s life was taken away.”

It is one of so many gruesome and desperate stories that have poured forth from the tens of thousands of refugees.