jksquires, March 5, 2014 (view all comments by jksquires)
Thought provoking is undoubtedly an overused description, but if this book doesn't provoke you to think long and hard about such issues as euthanasia, rationing medical resources, and the tragedy of Katrina, nothing will. When a decision was made to speed the demise of patients with DNR orders, was it an extraordinarily compassionate and brave one, or was it an overstepping of a physician's oath to first do no harm? That the situation was dire and healthcare professionals were heroic in a manner most of us could not imagine facing is quite clear, but the 45 bodies left behind at Memorial Hospital provoked many lingering and complex questions. This book really is about life and death and the razor's edge involved in decisions made in the wake of Katrina.
techeditor, November 19, 2013 (view all comments by techeditor)
FIVE DAYS AT MEMORIAL is nonfiction the way I wish all nonfiction books were: detailed without letting the details get in the way of an honest-to-gosh edge-of-your-seat story. This is an outstanding book, and any description of it won't do it justice.
You may think you know this story of New Orleans' Memorial Hospital, its staff and patients, during and after Hurricane Katrina. But there's so much you don't, and it looks like Sheri Fink, the author of FIVE DAYS AT MEMORIAL, has done the digging for us and found it all. And her presentation won't bore you, either. Yet all the details are there, with a journalist's skill of maintaining objectivity; Fink gives us no opinion, just the facts.
The first half of FIVE DAYS AT MEMORIAL is the five days at Memorial, hard to stomach but necessary to really understanding what doctors and nurses were faced with and what patients, particularly the severely ill, endured. The second half involves mostly how various staff (doctors, nurses, therapists, etc.) reacted to their experience and presented their reactions to law enforcement, newspaper reporters, medical societies, etc. And we can also finally understand what went on with the intended prosecution of one of the doctors, how the media influenced the outcome.
During a book event with Sheri Fink that I atteded at the Jewish Community Center in West Bloomfield, Michigan, she stated that this story all comes down to how ill-prepared our hospitals are for emergencies such as this hurricane. Of course, that's true. But it might not be enough to entice you to pick up the book.
Really, it's about so much more than that. And you want to read it; you really do. Not many books of nonfiction do more than make you smarter. FIVE DAYS AT MEMORIAL will grab you until the end. And you won't want it to end. Gees, I'm hoping the paperback will continue the Epilogue.
"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"'They were in a war zone,' Fink (War Hospital: A True Story of Surgery and Survival) writes of those stranded inside New Orleans' Memorial Medical Center in the calamitous wake of Hurricane Katrina. In this astonishing blend of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalism (Fink, who also has an M.D. and Ph.D., won the award for the investigative reporting on which this book is based) and breathtaking narration, she chronicles the chaotic evacuation of the hospital and the agonizing ethical, physical, and emotional quandaries facing Memorial nurses and doctors, including a nightmarish triage process that led to the controversial decision to inject critically ill patients with fatal doses of morphine in order to refocus attention on those with a chance of surviving. An alarming 45 bodies were recovered from the crippled hospital, nine of which were deemed suspected victims of euthanasia. Yet investigators realized that unraveling the tragedies was 'as impossible as collecting fragments of a fractured mirror and then, somehow, inferring what image had once appeared there.' Some members of the medical staff were charged with murder, but a grand jury acquitted them. Plenty of hard-earned lessons were learned from the stunningly mismanaged response to the disaster, yet Fink acknowledges that for the families of those who never made it out of Memorial, the 'war against nature' could only be considered a loss. (Sept. 10)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
by Laurie Garrett, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and author of I Heard the Sirens Scream,
"In a high speed world that reduces reality to black and white, Sheri Fink slows down to examine every achingly tough decision made by medical responders to Hurricane Katrina. The riveting result is nuanced and leaves you asking, 'Well, what would I have done?' Wow."
by Booklist (starred),
"[Fink] offers a stunning re-creation of the storm, its aftermath, and the investigation that followed....She evenhandedly compels readers to consider larger questions, not just of ethics but race, resources, history, and what constitutes the greater good, while humanizing the countless smaller tragedies that make up the whole. And, crucially, she provides context, relating how other hospitals fared in similar situations. Both a breathtaking read and an essential book for understanding how people behave in times of crisis."
by Kirkus Reviews (starred),
"Pulitzer Prize-winning medical journalist/investigator Fink (War Hospital, 2003) submits a sophisticated, detailed recounting of what happened at Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans during and after Hurricane Katrina. Fink draws those few days in the hospital's life with a fine, lively pen, providing stunningly framed vignettes of activities in the hospital and sharp pocket profiles of many of the characters. She gives measured consideration to such explosive issues as class and race discrimination in medicine, end-of-life care, medical rationing and euthanasia, and she presents the injection of some patients with a cocktail of drugs to reduce their breathing in such a manner that readers will be able to fully fashion their own opinions. The book is an artful blend of drama and philosophy [and] with apparent effortlessness, Fink tells the Memorial story with cogency and atmosphere."
by Shelf Awareness,
"A stunning examination of one of the most shocking and complex stories to come out of Hurricane Katrina."
by Ms. Magazine,
"[Fink] raises important ethical questions in this fast-paced reconstruction of heart-wrenching events."
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.
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