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 writing on medicine, physician and reporter Sheri Fink reconstructs five days at Memorial Medical Center and draws the listener into the lives of those who struggled mightily to survive and to maintain life amidst 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 health professionals 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 listener 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 in America 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.
©2013 Sheri Fink (P)2013 Random House Audio
"Five Days at Memorial" is balanced, thought provoking and unexpectedly shocking. I still wonder "what would I have done" under the same horrific circumstances. Was the outcome just? Was truth and justice really served? Why wasn't the situation different? I'm still haunted.
It's an excellent piece of investigative journalism.
The lessons learned from this horrific event are ones we should be implementing. As demonstrated by events during Hurricane Sandy, we are still woefully prepared for caring for our most fragile during crises. We need to realize that, yes there is global warming - and as we work to bring an end to this mega crisis, the able-bodied need to prepare to take care for the elderly, the too young, the too sick.
The author knows what she speaks of....
Her heart makes the horror more real.
Yes, yes, yes. And I will listen to the story again, and again.
I started this book with rather strong feelings about end of life decisions, but I found myself changing my mind throughout the entire book. The book includes a lot of information about Katrina that I was unaware of, and overall I thought it was well researched. For me, however, a book with this many names, dates, and facts is usually better in print form, as I can look back and review earlier information.
Say something about yourself!
This is a book that will grab you from the first few pages and hold your interest to the end. It's well written, well narrated and the kind of book you wish three of your friends were reading at the same time so you could talk with them about it, which is why I think it would be an excellent choice as a book club pick. The likely discussion about the book would be lively and interesting and sure to go off in many directions.
Avid general reader with a fondness for British and Irish Writers and world history.
Unquestionably a book which should be read and discussed by those who are involved in emergency preparedness programs as well as the general public. Well researched, well documented description of conditions at an aging but vital hospital in New Orleans during Katrina as well as historical and subsequent developments and the players involved.
I am an avid eclectic reader.
This is an interesting book written in a way to provoke thought. Sheri Fink, M.D., Ph.D. did a fairly good job of trying to present the facts in an unbiased way. Fink did a good job in demonstrating the lack of preparedness of the hospital, city, county, state and federal agencies as well as individuals in New Orleans. How many of you reading this book has a plan for your home and family for various disasters you might face? How many of you practice disaster/fire drills with your family? To carry this one step further does your neighborhood have a plan and do you run drills? Fink pointed out in the book all members of a community should participate in discussion, plans to meet the needs for your community instead of a group of expert decide for you. Fink did a good job describing the feelings of the various individual she presented in the book and how they handled the situation. The difference between the Charity Hospital and the more affluent hospital handling the same situation was illuminating. I like the ending of the book and the comparison of what happened with Hurricane Sandy and the New York hospital and their actions knowing what happened in New Orleans. Kirsten Potter did a good job narrating the book. Disasters and pandemics will occur we need to think about this issues Fink bought up in this book and be prepared.
I am from the New Orleans area and was one of the many thousands who evacuated for Hurricane Katrina. I was also one of the large population of locals who were offended and dismayed when then-Attorney General Charles Foti arrested a doctor and two nurses who had been at the flooded Memorial hospital during the disaster. Public opinion at the time was squarely behind the hospital staff, largely because we thought that the opportunistic former sheriff was blaming the very people, who saved so many lives, of not being even more heroic. This was my opinion, and that of everyone I talked to - until I read the ProPublica article about conditions at Memorial, published in 2009. That article convinced me that perhaps something very unsavory had happened at the hospital during the disaster.
And so it was with great interest that I read the reporter's more thorough examination of those days in this book. This book deserves a Pulitzer; it is an unbiased, well balanced and extremely thorough examination of the events at Memorial and the consequences of those events. I also have a Ph.D. in philosophy, and so I was hoping to see a studied examination of the ethical issues surrounding the events, and I was not disappointed. Ms. Fink clearly and accurately explained some of the most basic principles of ethics, and how they were (or were not) applied in this case.
The overall impression that I had of the medical professionals at Memorial was that they were so over-taxed, over-worked and under-prepared that they were not in a position to make truly rational choices about their sickest patients. To prevent this kind of tragedy in the future, our institutions must determine ahead of time how they will react in a disaster, and the people in those institutions need to cling to their moral principles, rather than abandon them in such a moment of crisis. The contrast of Memorial hospital with Charity hospital is most striking in this regard. Both hospitals were stranded in flood waters and lost power. But at Charity they were prepared and had practiced for just such an event. They evacuated the sickest patients first, not last, and they didn't give any patients lethal injections. Three people died at Charity, compared with forty-five deaths at Memorial, many of those in the last few hours, even as helicopters were arriving en masse to evacuate the hospital. Please read this book.
Working in the healthcare emergency preparedness field, this is a story I wish everyone would read or listen to because the hardships and lessons learned have implications on hospitals and communities across the country. Hospital administrators and care providers are locked in an epic struggle between balancing their everyday workload, financial crisis, and emergency preparedness mandates. There simply isn't enough time or money to make it all work optimally. As a result there continues to be disaster liabilities at many hospitals that I hope and pray never come to light.
It can't be easy to corral six years of interviews with hundreds of frightened fact-withholding survivors of trauma, and then to write the story in a fluid and understandable style..while avoiding the misrepresentation of each litigiously prone principle. The event itself was "hell" but reporting on it must have felt like tightrope walking.
A compelling read.
I kept putting this listen off because I really wasn't that interested in more about Katrina. But I was quickly drawn in to the well told and interesting account of this event during the storm. Fink has put together a well rounded picture of the people involved, how decisions came about, and the broader implications for our disaster recovery institutions and infrastructure.
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