AUTHOR: Sheri Fink
DATE FINISHED: April 7
BLURB: In the tradition of the best investigative journalism, physician and reporter Sheri Fink reconstructs 5 days at Memorial Medical Center and draws the reader into the lives of those who struggled mightily to survive and maintain life amid 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 of those caregivers 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 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.
REVIEW: Harrowing. That's the best way to describe this book. I didn't follow the news too much after Katrina hit. I lived on the opposite coast and was wrapped up in toddlers. I was lucky to see anything not animated back then, let alone news. So a lot of this was brand new to me. It's not an easy read, by far. The first half is packed too densely with details that seem superfluous, and it has a LOT of people in it to keep track of - patients, nurses, doctors, administrators, family members of patients. But the detail also paints a horrific picture of just how underprepared the hospital was for this level of disaster. That is perhaps the best lesson to come out of this. We need to learn from what happened here. (Also, this seems to be even more proof of how broken our for-profit healthcare system really is.) The actual legal problems that faced the caregivers happen in the second half, and while it reads much faster and easier than the first, it's not nearly as interesting. The author has an obvious bias, but without knowing more from other sides, I don't know how I feel about the ultimate conclusion. I don't think I have the energy to look for it, though. Reading about the disaster was hard enough here. I can't even imagine living through it.