Winner of the BookBrowse 2013 Best Non-Fiction Book Award
Pulitzer Prize winner Sheri Fink's landmark investigation of patient deaths at a New Orleans hospital ravaged by Hurricane Katrina and suspense-filled portrayal of the quest for truth and justice.
In the tradition of the best investigative journalism and the finest writing on medicine, physician and reporter Sheri Fink reconstructs five days at Memorial Medical Center and draws the reader into the lives of those who struggled mightily to survive and to maintain life amidst chaos.
After Katrina struck, after 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 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 as Americans 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 will change your understanding of how we value human life.
note to the reader
THIS BOOK RECOUNTS what happened at Memorial Medical Center during and after Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 and follows events through the aftermath of the crisis, when medical professionals were arrested and accused of having hastened the deaths of their patients. Many people held a piece of this story, and I conducted more than five hundred interviews with hundreds of them: doctors, nurses, staff members, hospital executives, patients, family members, government officials, ethicists, attorneys, researchers, and others. I was not at the hospital to witness the events. I began researching them in February 2007 and wrote an account of them in 2009, copublished on the investigative news site ProPublica and in the New York Times Magazine: "The Deadly Choices at Memorial." Because memories often fade and change, source materials dating from the time of the disaster and its immediate aftermath were particularly valuable, including photographs, videotapes, e-mails, ...
Fink is a remarkable author. She comes from a school of thought that says, “Report the facts and let the readers make up their own minds. Don’t lead, don’t tease, don’t cajole. Just let the story unfold.” No matter how vivid Fink’s narrative becomes, amazingly culled from “more than 500 interviews,” various books, reports, photographs, Internet postings, articles, videotapes, notes and so much more, her words remain calmly stated. She is truly an objective observer.
(Reviewed by Rory L. Aronsky).
Full Review (1164 words).
Though Hurricane Katrina did strike a mighty blow, it was only part of the catastrophe that befell New Orleans. As Sheri Fink writes in Five Days at Memorial, "Katrina rapidly lost strength after moving onto land. The rain lessened and the winds began to ease by late morning. The water level outside Memorial stabilized at about three feet."
During the squalls of the hurricane on Monday August 29, 2005, water raced down Clara Street (Memorial's location) and "a red car and a red van were submerged to the tops of their wheel wells," but the hospital seemed free from disaster. Then a National Guard soldier informed Memorial's plant operations director that the levees had been breached. Fifteen feet of water from Lake Pontchartrain was ...
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