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
I read science, biographies, histories, mysteries, adventures, thrillers, educationals, linguistics but not no way, not no how, romances.
Well, this is a terrifying story. A horrible flood, under-prepared staff members caring for sick patients, no plan for emergencies, and a time frame that stretches on adding day to day. This is the story of Memorial Hospital as it was stranded during Katrina. There is dirt and fear and failing electricity and patients who need hand pumped ventilation and air conditioning. Then the really crazy question: did the staff members euthanize the patients? There's ample evidence that they did.
The author takes you through the decisions and the points of view in great detail for the five days of the disaster. It's really epic reading and you'll storm through the first half of this book. But the disaster is only the first half. Then we have the legal story, told with the same care for balance and detail, we watch the investigation into Dr. Amanda Pou, who likely ordered the injections. Was she guilty and would she be convicted? This is inherently not as interesting a subject matter and there is less human drama (though the complexities of legal struggle did keep my attention). If this book was more disaster and less legal struggle it would have been perfect. As it stands, it's just really, really good.
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.
Newly retired, I am a reading fiend! I like many types of books, both fiction and non-fiction, with the exception of romance and fantasy
This book should be read by all thinking adults. It is so much more than just an account of what happened at Memorial Hospital in New Orleans during hurricane Katrina. I came away, just finishing the book, with really disturbing feelings. I know these uneasy feelings will linger for a long time. I feel the wrongness of what happened in my bones, but I also realize that there were extenuating circumstances that allowed it to happen. I feel a deep sense of anger, but I am not sure where it should be directed.
I toss around so many thoughts, in my head and to those who will listen to me.
Was Dr. Anna Pou a sociopath (a liar and murderer) or was she just a victim of her circumstances? After all, she appeared to be an experienced and talented surgeon who really cared about her own patients. But is that enough to excuse her behaviors, before and during the event?
Are doctors considered on a par with God in this country? Just because a doctor takes charge in a critical situation, will no one even question their decisions? Understandably certain staff will follow all orders, but what about other doctors (co-workers) of equal status? Is it enough just to walk away and not see?
Is it just in the personality of those people who step up and want to take charge--Anna Pou, most of our politicians, big bosses? Perhaps people of greater honesty and honor have no desire to take charge? I am often disturbed at having to vote, not for the best person, but for the lesser of two evils.
Is a DNR really the best way to go? I always thought I should have one, but after listening to this book, I am not so sure anymore. How can one protect their own wishes in the absence of a friend or loved one?
Above all, this book should be read by medical professionals, especially administrators, who can and should come up with policies, procedures, and recommendations, so that one or more rogue persons cannot take charge and make decisions that are not in the best interest of the most helpless souls.
This book was expertly narrated by Kirsten Potter, who has the ability to narrate as the book was written, in a neutral, non-accusatory manner. I commend the author, Sheri Fink, for doing her research and for presenting the facts without an agenda getting in the way.
Highly recommended listen!
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