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
Besides incessant listening to audiobooks, I also read on my Kindle at night, birdwatch, garden (roses, daylilies), and do genealogy.
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!
This book reads like an insurance report, so dry that the horrific events described seem dull. The book is well researched, but in an effort to be thorough, the author is repetitive, and either she is not interested in providing emotional perspective to the events described or purposely avoided doing so.
I was the only one in my book club able to finish this book, probably because I work in medicine and have myself been in a similar (though less intense) situation and I was interested in understanding how other professionals felt during a true emergency. Sadly, this account didn't really contain much insight into how anyone felt, it is completely factual. Now if you are in market for an emotionless analysis of a frightening tragedy, this is the book for you and I recommend it as such.
I have not listened to any other performances by Kirsten Potter, she did the best she could have done with the material.
I did have an interesting discussion with my husband (a physician) about what training medical schools offer in ethics, and about triage in military situations versus inner city settings, and during drills for natural disasters. It would have made a nice essay, far more interesting than this book.
It was a gripping account of what happened at one hospital in New Orleans during and after Hurricane Katrina. I had very little difficulty differentiating between who was who and who did what, and that was due in no small part to the author's little reminders here and there.
Kirsten Potter was a great narrator choice for this book.
Hospital by Julie Salamon (spelling?) Five Days was a much ebtter read, for the simple reason that it had a specific event to tie itself to, rather than Hospital (which just kept on going).
A long time ago I heard her read one of the Lisa Gardner books. She did a great job... this one, by its subject matter, was a different type of read, but Ms. Potter is still stunning.
No. I kept having to pick it up and put it down - not because it wasn't interesting, but because there were some passages that were so hard to read.
This book is a thorough expose on what can happen when hospitals are not prepared in the cases of emergency. While I do not think anything was done maliciously out of poor intentions, the circumstances during those five days at memorial provide a backdrop of how everything that can go wrong, will.
It is easy to say that those of us who were not there could never understand and should not judge. But if we are ever to learn we must try to put ourselves in these terrible places and we must be willing to judge. Fink has done an outstanding job providing a balanced and detailed account of what transpired during those hellish five days that so many of us remember watching unfold on television. She speaks for the medical workers, the families and the patients. As a pastor and a lawyer the questions she leaves me with are not related to whether the physicians did the right thing, but how we can help others the next time this happens, and the time after that.
I'm just a dumb troglodyte who like reading. Me feel good after I read book.
As a curious person, I often tackle books outside my experience base. However, I was interested in what happened at Memorial Hospital in New Orleans immediately following Hurricane Katrina. 5 Days at Memorial (5-Days) is an excellent book for anyone associated with providing medical treatment. Sheri Fink completes a step-by-step analysis into each facet of the tragedy that occurred following Katrina. Fink is an exceptional writer and her ability deconstruct this tragic story is amazing. As a professional not involved in the medical world, I soon became burdened by the relentless detail described in 5-Days. There were so many patients, nurses, doctors, medicines, and government officials that I soon lost track of the story. 5-Days has a heavy and serious tone that is constantly present. Overall, this is an excellent book for lawyers, doctors, nurses, ethicists, and hospital professional. As a curious reader I lost focus about halfway in.
This is a book that could have been so much more had the author had any talent beyond headline grabbing. This book's greatest failure is the author's inability to move the story past the immediacy of tabloid journalism. It reports without any critical analysis leaving the reader, who lacks expertise, with the authorial responsibility to fill in the missing gaps and determine which voices are correct or the most accurate. It's raison d'etre is not how medical institutions function in a crisis but with the accusation that euthanasia was committed. It is an important story. This book might have been important. What happened in New Orleans also happened in New York City after Sandy and may happen again in other cities.
The book does not cover so many important issues that bubble up from the story being told. It leaves out of its purview the role of privately owned, for profit hospitals in preparing for and responding to these crises. It gives almost no coverage to what happened beyond this hospital on a local, state, Federal level that left medical personal incommunicado, literally in darkness, with no idea when rescue would happen, and in fear of attack either from residents from the surrounding area or from those in equally squalid conditions. She leaves unanswered why the individual most thought was coordinating relief was a private nurse with only a few hours of disaster courses, not a FEMA employee or even in contact with FEMA. Yet the myopia is only a part of the frustration one will experience with this book.
The only reason this book was written is because allocations that euthanasia occurred at this hospital were made. The author skews the story in order to assign blame when the story she tells is that people in isolation, in desperate straights, without electricity, without, air conditioning, in fear for their safety, suffering from sleep deprivation and hope of rescue as low as could be imagined, were doing their best to deal with the overwhelming challenges they faced. It might be argued that some of these issues are dealt with in the second section of the book. This would be false. The author does write of how medical personal behaved in Haiti after the earthquake. She brings up, briefly, how NYC hospitals managed when Hurricane Sandy struck. But her analysis is always superficial and is essentially useless. In both cases, individuals did not fear isolated. They did not fear for their personal safety. They were in contact with the outside world. They did not feel hopeless and helpless. They remained in control and in communication with the outside world. They were not part of for profit health corporations who had no plan with how to deal with a disaster of this magnitude nor did they feel any urgency to provide support to these beleaguered medical personnel. There is not analysis of health care provided by for-profit hospitals versus publically supported hospitals.
Then there is the larger issue of life and care of those elderly who are in a persistent vegetative state. The issue is touched upon. Indeed, it is held up as a banner to the reader and the author as a bludgeon to beat individuals she clearly feels behaved improperly. Yet it is a subject that ought to be explored in depth, particularly since it is the costs of these services that are helping to make health care so expensive--and the reasons for-profit health care exists. As important as this subject is from the perspective of policy or morality it is analyzed from the selfish perspective of individual relatives of patients in this hospital or from a moral absolutist position. Even the author seems to suggest that those she believes behaved improperly and who deserved to be held criminally accountable, did so under the best motives. Since her focus never leaves the surface we have no idea why those individuals reached the conclusion that their actions were necessary and the humane because the author's reporting occurred while they were under criminal pearl.
There is no historical analysis, there is no institutional analysis, there is little that ever does more than scratch the surface of any subject. All voices are granted equal weight and are rarely ever put in larger context. There is no authorial shaping of the story. It is the retelling of a story from the myopic and disjointed perspective of each individual, that had it some shape might have offered a valuable look at how and why people performed how they did.The reader is left screaming at the page at false conclusions made, for cheap attacks or for the superficiality of the information offered and the analysis offered. This may be an important story but it will have to be told by others as this author is lost and whose ability is unequal to the task.
It is obvious that Fink did her research and it was easy to trust her facts. I have nothing negative to say on that front. However, her writing style was far from engaging for me. This story is so incredibly intriguing, It makes you think about everything from disaster preparedness to assisted suicide to what you would do for survival... yet I felt the complexities of it were lost in this telling.
The narrator's lack of knowledge regarding the local dialect was horribly distracting throughout this entire book. PLEASE do some research and do not butcher the pronunciation of street names, sir names, common phrases, etc.
SciFi/Fantasy and Classics to History, Adventure and Memoirs to Social Commentary—I love and listen to it all!
I can't say that this was an enjoyable listen; it's too hard-hitting for that. I did Animal Rescue after Katrina, and I remember what a horror show, what a nightmare the place was. This book, graphically and with chaotic realism, brought up a whole lot of memories for me. What I appreciated to no end was the amount of detail, the amount of research that went into the writing of this book. From emails and personal accounts, reports from the media to legal documents, everything! Absolutely everything was covered and addressed. And it's delivered in such a factual, unbiased way that you're left to decide for yourself: Was it right? Or was it wrong? Chances are that, if you had strong feelings about what happened, one way or the other, you'll still believe it. But, boy! Your thinking will be unalterably changed by this book! You'll be challenged to no end.
As the book wraps up, and we see the lives of those involved progress and change, some horrific ironies turn up. What about that doctor who now finds himself deathly ill and with "no hope of a positive outcome?" What about that zealot of an investigator, hellbent on prosecution, who finds himself needing/herself with a loved one needing the awesome skills of these doctors they've been thinking of as devils? It's a strange life, a strange world we live in.
There are many protagonists that you can't help but root for, whether medical or legal. Many antagonists you boo at. Kristen Potter brings them all out like a skilled documentarian, subtle variations giving each of them a powerful, personable voice. She delivers the facts with a flat skill, delivers each character with power and emotion. No mean feat.
I was simply blown away by the politics that went into play after the events! And stunned by how each individual, from the doctors to the coroner, the attorney general and staff to the fly-by-night personal claims lawyers painted themselves after the fact. And the way we view treatment and death in America? Extraordinary!
I listened to this book, thinking, "People don't remember how bad it was. People can't understand unless they were there." But by the end, I honestly, truly wondered: No, really. Was it the right thing to do? I can only get down on my knees and thank God that I've never had to survive something like that to be in the position. You will too.
Yes, the water was rising and yes, the electricity went out and yes, the backup generators finally failed as well and yes, the toilets overflowed. So do we just kill the patients who were within hours of being rescued? The hospital had food, water, and medications. This book isn't about difficult triage decisions which have to be made in a disaster situation e.g., who gets treated or medevaced out first, who gets the last vial of medicine,etc.The patients to whom Dr. Pou gave lethal injections weren't asking to die. She wasn't giving palliative medicine intended to alleviate pain or anxiety. She INTENDED to kill them without having consulted with them or their families. She has never explained why she did it. The story made me angry that she got away with it.
Thorough, clearly researched, and seemingly fairly reported.
The story was very good and each "character" reasonably fleshed out - but it really did feel as though the whole story could have been told in half the time. It felt endless. I kept telling myself that it was probably how the actual people felt - but I think it was to the detriment of the story - the drama and the description of the dire circumstances suffered because it went on and on and on . . . this is one book that perhaps I should have considered in an abridged version.
I had only heard snippets on the news that it was possible that hospital workers had euthanized patients during the aftermath of Katrina, and I remember thinking "how sad." How sad that maybe it had happened, how sad that conditions had come to that, how sad that people were being accused of it when there was so much else that went wrong. I bought the book because I wanted to understand whether it happened and if so, why? This book covered just about everything, including the legal proceedings that followed. I won't spoil the story for you, but I read afterwards that the doctor in the book completely disagrees with Sheri Fink's account - which is unfortunate. It seemed to me that the doctor was fairly and compassionately portrayed without any judgement and it is left to the reader to decide what the intentions of each person were.
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