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. Read more...
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
- ISBN-13: 9780307718969
- ISBN-10: 0307718964
- Publisher: Crown Publishing Group (NY)
- Publish Date: September 2013
- Page Count: 558
- Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.7 x 1.7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2013-07-08
- Reviewer: Staff
“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. (Sept. 10)
If you had to decide whether a person should live or die, what would you do? This is the central theme of Five Days at Memorial, a gripping account of how doctors, nurses and their patients at one New Orleans hospital endured unbearable conditions after Hurricane Katrina struck in August 2005. Flooding, loss of electricity, sweltering heat, dwindling medical supplies and anarchy in the streets were among the issues confronting doctors and nurses at Memorial Medical Center. The situation eventually deteriorated far enough that some hospital workers were placed in the unenviable position of deciding whether to let critically ill patients suffer, or hasten their deaths. They chose to administer morphine and other drugs, ending the lives of at least 18 patients.
Five Days at Memorial chronicles the events leading up to these deaths, and the ensuing criminal investigation and trial of those deemed responsible. In the five days after the hurricane devastated the city, the hospital’s power failed, as did its generators. The lack of air conditioning added to patients’ suffering. Delays on the part of the corporation that owned the hospital slowed an evacuation, as did confusion among the various local, state and federal agencies trying to manage the crisis. So there lay the severely ill, without medication or hope of rescue. For some doctors and nurses, euthanasia seemed the only choice.
The original story that became Five Days at Memorial was co-published in the New York Times and ProPublica, and won a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting. Journalist Sheri Fink is a dogged researcher, a thorough interviewer and a gifted writer who turns nonfiction into lively prose. The characters she writes about are real, but their unbelievable circumstances make the book read like a work of fiction.
Readers will come away with a greater understanding of the difficult circumstances residents of New Orleans faced during Katrina, and will also confront important moral and ethical questions. Fink asks us to consider: If we had been there during those dark, desperate days at Memorial, would we have made a different choice?