cw// murder, euthanasia, natural disaster
This fascinating and heartbreaking book had me hooked; it was one of those books that consumed my thoughts–I was constantly thinking about it and always eager to share with others what I was currently reading. Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink will break you, force you to think and question everything, and will ultimately leave you curious about how humans rationalize their choices.
Five Days at Memorial is a work of investigative journalism; while Fink was not present for any of the detailed events, she combed through hours of interviews, newspaper clippings, and research to write this book, which is an expansion of her Pulitzer Prize-winning article. However, with the level of detail and how well we seem to get to know the “characters,” it almost reads like a novel.
What readers get is a harrowing story of the New Orlean’s Memorial Medical Center during and after the devastating Hurricane Katarina. The hospital struggled to evacuate patients and staff efficiently, to prioritize the various needs of patients, to continue to provide humane care after the loss of power, and ultimately made the decision to euthanize those patients with advanced medical issues and DNR (do not resuscitate) orders. What Fink gives us is a detailed account of how decision were made, how patients and evacuations were prioritized, and the subsequent investigation of the medical professionals involved. Outrage, shock, sadness, disbelief, anger and loss are only a few emotions this story may elicit.
This is a challenging read–in the sense that there are many “characters” and details to keep straight, and in the sense that it will challenge you to reflect on your own beliefs. Furthermore, I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Kristin Potter, which was easy to follow and engaging.
Best binged with: a couple shots of straight whiskey to help you cope with the devastating choices and rationale you’ll read about.
[This book and review was a personal choice, and was not given to me to review.]