5 Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink

5 Days at Memorial Sheri Fink ***1/2 out of *****

Horror stories continue to pour out of the catastrophe brought on by Hurricane Katrina. Various authors have attempted to tell a variety of stories about the storm and the days after it. Pulitzer Prize Winning journalist Sheri Fink focuses her Katrina story on the events at Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans. The story follows the terrible conditions encountered by those at the hospital after the flood waters rose, the power and back-up generators failed, and the rescue was bungled.
In terrible conditions, doctors, nurses, and their families were faced with the difficulty of caring for patients whose health declined in the terrible conditions. A few doctors and nurses came to the conclusion that some patients needed to be euthanized. So, convinced they had no other choice, a few doctors and nurses began administering lethal doses of drugs to kill patients they deemed unable to survive the ordeal.
The story reveals a perfect storm of failure upon failure. System after system failed in order for the final killings to take place. Hospital managers failed to take care of its hospital. Hospital workers failed to understand the need to get patients out immediately (in fact they actually turned away some helicopters because they believed other helicopters were on the way). Hospital workers that did not agree with the decision to euthanize some patients did not challenge the decision. And all of these failures allowed a few to decide to kill patients, even as the evacuation was finally moving along.
One thing becomes painfully clear in this book. If conditions are catastrophic you do not want to be sick, old, poor, or heavy. If you are, there is a chance no one is going to look out for you. There is a chance they might just be looking to “end your suffering.”
As for the book itself, it is unnecessarily long. Fink tries to give too much background, but it adds nothing to the book except length. The story, however, is both tragic and a real life horror story. This book lets us know that sometimes monsters exist in real life and some of the scariest books are nonfiction.

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One Response to “5 Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink”

  1. JoAnn says:

    I read this and it is a very disturbing book. I am a nurse and think it is sad that more people did not hear what happened here. Death is indeed not always the enemy and medicating people for comfort has its place, but this was not war, there was food and water and it was days, not weeks or years like war. The patients and families had no say and a Dr, in spite of being caring and compassionate, ultimately showed that her feelings and needs came 1st, especially by her actions after the fact to protect herself. The BIG giant elephant in the room is that the helicopters were THERE, the staff was getting out….why not the patients?

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