Articles health care

Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital (Book Review)

Thursday, March 10th, 2016

Author: Sheri Fink
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group, 2013

Reviewed by: Tammy Chamblee, RN, BSN, MA Homeland Security

Over the period of five days during the Hurricane Katrina disaster, people made choices we might think wouldn’t, couldn’t or shouldn’t be made in twenty-first century, modern America. Sheri Fink’s Five Days at Memorial shows that given the right set of circumstances, the same decisions and consequences could face America again unless we learn necessary lessons and make necessary changes.

Five Day at Memorial details the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 at the Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans. It is an expansion of the Pulitzer Prize-winning article that was written by Fink and published in 2009 in The New York Times Magazine and describes the events that occurred at Memorial Medical Center during the five days after the hurricane as thousands of people found themselves trapped at the hospital without power. The system of triage that was put into effect deprioritized the critically ill patients for evacuation. Ultimately, a number of these patients were later euthanized by the nursing and medical staff. These acts occurred just shortly before the hospital was evacuated on the fifth day of the crisis. Fink examines the political and legal ramifications of the decision to euthanize these patients and then the ethical issues that surrounded health care in disaster scenarios.

The book went on to win three awards, one of which was a National Book Critics Circle Award.