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Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a…
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Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital (edition 2013)

by Sheri Fink

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
1,02715112,560 (4.15)1 / 292
Member:mportley
Title:Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital
Authors:Sheri Fink
Info:Crown (2013), Hardcover, 576 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:2014, 2013, nonfiction, social issues, New Orleans, Katrina, health care, medical, euthanasia, disasters, ethics, MALC

Work details

Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink

  1. 30
    Zeitoun by Dave Eggers (TooBusyReading)
    TooBusyReading: Both books are fascinating and heartbreaking looks at how much went wrong as Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans.
  2. 10
    I Remember Nothing More by Adina Blady Szwajger (akblanchard)
    akblanchard: Desperate circumstances force physicians to make decisions that no one should have to make.
  3. 10
    The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast by Douglas Brinkley (IsolaBlue)
  4. 00
    A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge by Josh Neufeld (pbirch01)
  5. 00
    In the Wake of Terror: Medicine and Morality in a Time of Crisis by Jonathan D. Moreno (aulsmith)
    aulsmith: Moreno's book is pure ethics; Fink's book is a dramatic story about people trying to deal with a disaster and ethics at the same time.
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Showing 1-5 of 151 (next | show all)
(25) Yikes! This was a very compelling investigative book written by a reporter who had also attended medical school. Her medical knowledge was key to writing this with authenticity and without naiveté. We all know the story, in the aftermath of Katrina when the levees failed, floodwaters poured into the city leaving residents who couldn't or didn't evacuate in peril. There was talk of mercy killings at certain hospitals and nursing homes - Did it really happen? Was it justified? And perhaps even more disturbing - why did some hospitals in similar circumstances pull through with few casualties? As physicians, is it OK to take things into our own hands in disasters; in "appalling circumstances?" Who is to say what is appalling?. . . The questions this book brings up are almost endless.

I think the author did an excellent job reporting this is an unbiased manner. I think it might have been easy for her to 'pick a side,' which I don't really feel like she did. She presented all the people involved - patients, family members, doctors, nurses, and lawyers - with the benefit of the doubt, with only the best of intentions. Yet, she didn't shy away from pointing out when their actions or reactions didn't make sense - like Anna Pou's continued assertions at public speaking events that helicopters don't fly at night, even after it was pointed out that that was incorrect. Or, the fact that hospital administrators were crossing a bridge to an air conditioned cancer center to sleep and rest. Huhn? Why didn't they move the patients there then instead of in the hot parking garage? It is really frightening how misinformation spreads in a crisis. I have no faith that State, Federal, or frankly local hospital officials have gotten any better at this in the ensuing years since Katrina.

As a physician who believes in a patient's right to refuse treatment, who believes that palliative care is vastly underused, and frankly who believes that physician-assisted suicide is not unreasonable - I still think there was some horrible decision making on the part of those doctors and nurses spurred on by panic and a lack of effective leadership and communication. It clearly did not have to go down that way. My only reason for holding back 5 starts is that it was really hard to keep the players straight - a list of the people and their roles would have been helpful. The ending/epilogue was a bit like beating a dead horse. While I enjoyed the post-Katrina investigation - I wanted to go back and read the first half again; some recapitulation of the time-line and events in the second half would of been helpful. Still and all - an excellent, thought-provoking read about a modern-day tragedy. I am sorry to say, New Orleans makes my skin crawl. ( )
  jhowell | May 27, 2019 |
An important look inside emergency response planning, disaster preparedness, triage protocols, with a heavy focus on neonatal/geriatric/disabled/intensive care patients. A vital read for anyone involved in medical fields, hospital administration, public health policy, evacuation planning, end-of-life/hospice care, etc. ( )
  dele2451 | Mar 8, 2019 |
A bit dense but really and truly powerful. Every time the point of view switched, I could understand why each side felt the way they did about the euthanasia of these patients. Totally thought provoking. ( )
  Katie_Roscher | Jan 18, 2019 |
Took me a long time to read this, only because the entire situation is so intense. Rarely have I read a book where I had to take breaks (of days/weeks) in my reading. It leaves me with so many questions, but at same time, I am very aware I was not in that place at that time, under those conditions... ( )
  jslantz1948 | Sep 15, 2018 |
Took me a long time to read this, only because the entire situation is so intense. Rarely have I read a book where I had to take breaks (of days/weeks) in my reading. It leaves me with so many questions, but at same time, I am very aware I was not in that place at that time, under those conditions... ( )
  jslantz1948 | Sep 15, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 151 (next | show all)
What developed over the five days, in a hospital ironically well supplied with bottled water and food, and resupplied by air with drugs, was a system of triage that varied depending on which company had responsibility for the patients.

Against this background, it would later be alleged, key Tenet personnel discussed, and then carried out, euthanasia on the terminally ill patients even as relief was imminent.

Fink is in no doubt that some kind of crime took place even if she is fair and deeply sympathetic to the plight of the exhausted medical staff involved. "Moral clarity," she writes, describing the moment the patients were injected with a powerful cocktail of drugs, "was easier to maintain in concept than in execution."

If the beginning of the book is sometimes awkwardly structured, Fink finds her stride a few chapters in and make this a tight, provocative and gripping read.
 
Five Days at Memorial is thorough reporting about what happened at New Orleans’ Memorial Medical Center during Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Sheri Fink, who is both a journalist and a Ph.D. neuroscientist, won the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting for the 2009 New York Times/Pro Publica article “Deadly Choices at Memorial,” which became the basis for this book. ... Fink’s journalism chops show, particularly in her attention to detail and her unwillingness to paint anyone as a villain. Some readers may feel that she’s not tough enough on Dr. Pou, but what Fink has really accomplished here is putting the reader on the spot, with one crisis after another and no real hope of rescue.
added by KelMunger | editLit/Rant, Kel Munger (Oct 19, 2013)
 
In her book “Five Days at Memorial,” Dr. Sheri Fink explores the excruciating struggle of medical professionals deciding to give fatal injections to those at the brink of death. Dr. Fink, a physician turned journalist, won a Pulitzer Prize for her investigation of these events in a 2009 joint assignment for ProPublica and The New York Times Magazine. This book is much more than an extension of that report. Although she had the material for a gripping disaster story, Dr. Fink has slowed the narrative pulse to investigate situational ethics: what happens when caregivers steeped in medicine’s supreme value, preserving life, face traumatic choices as the standards of civilization collapse.
 

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(Prologue) At last through the broken windows, the pulse of helicopter rotors and airboat propellers set the summer morning air throbbing with the promise of rescue.
For certain New Orleanians, Memorial Medical Center was the place you went to ride out each hurricane that the loop current of the Gulf of Mexico launched like a pinball at the city.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307718964, Hardcover)

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 reader 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 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 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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:58 -0400)

Fink provides a landmark investigation of patient deaths at a New Orleans hospital ravaged by Hurricane Katrina-- and a suspenseful portrayal of the quest for truth and justice. 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. Fink 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.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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