Pulitzer Prize winner Sheri Fink’s landmark investigation of patient deaths at a New Orleans hospital ravaged by Hurricane Katrina—and her suspenseful portrayal of the quest for truth and justice.
In the tradition of the best investigative journalism, physician and reporter Sheri Fink reconstructs 5 days at Memorial Medical Center and draws the reader into the lives of those who struggled mightily to survive and maintain life amid chaos.
After Katrina struck and the floodwaters rose, the power failed, and the heat climbed, exhausted caregivers chose to designate certain patients last for rescue. Months later, several of those caregivers faced criminal allegations that they deliberately injected numerous patients with drugs to hasten their deaths.
Five Days at Memorial, the culmination of six years of reporting, unspools the mystery of what happened in those days, bringing the reader into a hospital fighting for its life and into a conversation about the most terrifying form of health care rationing.
In a voice at once involving and fair, masterful and intimate, Fink exposes the hidden dilemmas of end-of-life care and reveals just how ill-prepared we are for the impact of large-scale disasters—and how we can do better. A remarkable book, engrossing from start to finish, Five Days at Memorial radically transforms your understanding of human nature in crisis.
One of The New York Times' Best Ten Books of the Year
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
A gripping portrait of the doctors and patients languishing inside a forsaken New Orleans hospital during Hurricane Katrina. Fink—an MD and a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist—has written a sad and breathtaking masterpiece.
"They were in a war zone," Fink (War Hospital: A True Story of Surgery and Survival) writes of those stranded inside New Orleans' Memorial Medical Center in the calamitous wake of Hurricane Katrina. In this astonishing blend of Pulitzer Prize winning journalism (Fink, who also has an M.D. and Ph.D., won the award for the investigative reporting on which this book is based) and breathtaking narration, she chronicles the chaotic evacuation of the hospital and the agonizing ethical, physical, and emotional quandaries facing Memorial nurses and doctors, including a nightmarish triage process that led to the controversial decision to inject critically ill patients with fatal doses of morphine in order to refocus attention on those with a chance of surviving. An alarming 45 bodies were recovered from the crippled hospital, nine of which were deemed suspected victims of euthanasia. Yet investigators realized that unraveling the tragedies was "as impossible as collecting fragments of a fractured mirror and then, somehow, inferring what image had once appeared there." Some members of the medical staff were charged with murder, but a grand jury acquitted them. Plenty of hard-earned lessons were learned from the stunningly mismanaged response to the disaster, yet Fink acknowledges that for the families of those who never made it out of Memorial, the "war against nature" could only be considered a loss.
Five Days at Memorial
Very exciting moment by moment depiction of a disturbing event- hard to put down-thought provoking
Gut-wrenching and fantastic
Imagine this scenario: You’re stuck in a hospital without electricity, food, or proper resources to care for your patients. Some are going to die and there’s nothing you can do about it. Would you help ease their pain by euthanizing them, or hold out hope that help will arrive? And how would you decide which people to give the drugs to and which ones to rescue?
These are, on the surface, the questions that the doctors at Memorial Hospital in New Orleans asked themselves while they waited out Hurricane Katrina. But what if there was more to the story than that? What if, in actuality, the patients weren’t about to die? These questions are exactly what author Sheri Fink set out to do when she started interviewing the hundreds of witnesses that helped recreate their five days in hell. Their choices would affect them forever, and for some would result in criminal charges.
When I first started reading this book, I couldn’t decide what side of the ethical line I stood. On the one hand, killing someone without their consent is wrong, but on the other hand, I can’t even imagine being put in a situation that requires even thinking about such a thing, so who am I to judge? But as I started reading the book, or more accurately, as I started taking this journey, I found myself feeling every possible emotion a person can feel when reading a book. I started out sad, then turned sympathetic, followed immediately by horror, and ending with anger. As the facts unravelled, I found myself completely shocked by the utter breakdown in communication and both the hospital and government’s failure to prepare for such an event.
Five Days At Memorial is an important and difficult read. Hurricane Katrina blew in to New Orleans and the city is still recovering, and so this book is an important part our American history. While it shines a light on our government and corporate failures, it also highlights the resiliency of the human spirit and will to survive. I highly recommend this book, but I do so with the warning that it addresses some very important and controversial issues involving end-of-life care and, in all honesty, will leave you a bit outraged.
This book is great! I'm studying Emergency Management and this is a real eye opener of what might be ahead in my career. I strongly recommend this book to anyone in the field as well as everyone else.