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Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  29,582 ratings  ·  3,669 reviews
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 to maintain life amid chaos.

After Katrina struck and the floodwaters rose, the power failed, and the heat climbed, exhausted caregivers chose to designate c
Hardcover, 558 pages
Published September 10th 2013 by Crown
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Kim Palsenbarg I have just finished reading this book and believe it should be required reading for all hospital administrators, medical personnel, professional comm…moreI have just finished reading this book and believe it should be required reading for all hospital administrators, medical personnel, professional communicators and anyone in crisis preparedness or risk management roles.

The best thing about this book is that the reader is not manipulated into 'taking sides'. The questions Ms Fink poses and points of view she outlines are presented clearly, factually and without prejudice. As a result it is an excellent book for a book club as it will open up a vigorous debate about society's values and difficult and challenging moral & ethical issues. However, be warned the subject matter - end of life care / the euthanasia debate / rationing resources - is likely to be highly controversial and will polarise people ... Make sure your book club is ready for a challenge like that! (less)

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Grace S.
Sep 10, 2013 rated it it was ok
*I will be analyzing the content of the book. NOT the events depicted therein.*

I've heard/read a lot of positive reviews for Five Days at Memorial and I'm noticing some commonalities. They tend to praise "the story" of the book. They cite the author's neutrality. They cite (sometimes copiously) the reader's own opinion on the larger ethical questions posed by the book, particularly regarding euthanasia. They use words like "gripping" and "thought-provoking", apparently praising the fact that a b
Sep 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I am from the New Orleans area and was one of the many thousands who evacuated for Hurricane Katrina. I was also one of the large population of locals who were offended and dismayed when then-Attorney General Charles Foti arrested a doctor and two nurses who had been at the flooded Memorial hospital during the disaster. Public opinion at the time was squarely behind the hospital staff, largely because we thought that the opportunistic former sheriff was blaming the very people, who saved so many ...more
Apr 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Harrowing, Unapologetic, and Heartbreaking

The events described in this book are thought to be true and may account for what took place five days following Hurricane Katrina in Memorial Hospital (New Orleans).

What happens when a hospital runs out of supplies, oxygen, and resources? How is a twisted lottery system configured to make life and death decisions? Ethical questions abound seek answers in this troubling reconstruction of the events that took place in Memorial Hospital, five days followin
Stephanie Harris
Nov 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Full disclosure: until recently, I practiced medical malpractice law, and it impossible for me not to view the events recounted in this excellent and, I think, balanced book through that lens. What I'm left with is. Conditions at Memorial were terrible, exacerbated by terrible to non-existent planning and very little support from Tenent, the corporate owner of the hospital. Because of these conditions, staff and doctors were required to make difficult decisions regarding triage and patient care. ...more
Sep 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book is a devastating account of what happened at a hospital in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. Sheri Fink spent years reporting on this story and her writing is strong, filled with grim details and dreadful scenes, but it needed to be told.

After the storm, Memorial Medical Center was flooded and lost power, stranding a large staff and nearly 200 patients, many of whom needed oxygen and ventilators to help them breathe. Due to communication breakdowns, a lack of emergency p
LA Cantrell
Dec 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
THE QUESTION: did this doctor and the nurses working with her intentionally murder patients? The facts are all laid out here for you to decide.

Today is the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the storm that ultimately killed more than 1,500 of my neighbors. This particular book is an OUTSTANDING choice for book clubs and for those who might be interested in seeing how a bad situation can be bent worse, and then murderously deadly.
I am a New Orleanian who spent four months in this hospi
Nov 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing

Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans

Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans did not have the resources to adequately care for patients following the flooding and power loss caused by Hurricane Katrina. In addition, evacuations were slow and difficult and people feared potential violence from looters and desperate citizens.

Memorial Medical Center was surrounded by water after Hurricane Katrina

A nurse fans patients awaiting evacuation in the Memorial Hospital car park after Hurricane Katrina

Jun 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: u2013-text
Like David Simon's The Wire and Dave Cullen's Columbine, this book is about all of the moral dilemmas that surround massive tragedy, and about the ways that interconnected systems succeed and fail and undermine each other when infrastructure breaks down. Fink does a remarkable job of remaining, for the most part, neutral -- and yet there are heroes and villains (often in the same person) and no shortage of drama. Natural disaster, medicine, corporate hierarchies, crime, law, media -- they feed a ...more
I received an advanced copy of this book and was excited to read it. I've read several other books about Hurricane Katrina and the horrific aftermath and wanted to see what this book could add to the picture.

When I first picked it up, I was very engaged from the beginning and couldn't put it down initially. I just couldn't believe what they were going through in that hospital. Wow!

However, after the first 100 pages or so, it started to drag for me. It felt like I was reading the same thing over
Glenn Sumi
Feb 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Five Days At Memorial is a powerful, balanced and clearly written (if slightly dry) account of the lives lost – or irrevocably altered – in a New Orleans hospital after Hurricane Katrina hit.

Sheri Fink, a physician turned journalist, has obviously done lots of research; the book grew out of a series of articles she wrote for The New York Times Magazine and ProPublica that earned her a Pulitzer Prize.

Initially it's hard to keep track of the dozens of people involved – patients, doctors, nurses a
Aug 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 5-star-reads

This is easily one of the best narrative nonfiction books I have ever read. It tells the story of what happened in one New Orleans hospital during Hurricaine Katrina, where doctors and other medical staff were accused of euthenizing patients. The book is divided into two sections. The first is an account of what happened in the hospital during the storm. The second recounts the legal process in the years afterward. Dr. Anna Pou, a doctor who was working in the h
Sep 21, 2013 rated it did not like it
To say that Ms. Fink is biased is an understatement. From the first chapter of this book, it is evident that Ms. Fink believes Mrs. Pou and the nurses to be at fault for the deaths that occurred at Memorial in the days following Hurricane Katrina. It's fine, of course, to be biased in writing, but not when one is attempting to pass their book off as a neutral, fair account.
Ms. Fink spends the first half of the book giving endless details and portraying the doctors, who stayed behind for four da
JanB(on vacation till October)
I'm going to start off my review with links to rebuttals, because I think they are important to include. I think anyone accused should be able to tell their side:

As the title suggests, this is the account of the 5 days at Memorial Hospital following Hurricane Katrina. There was no power, low supplies, a lack of sanitation creating the stench of sewage that filled the halls, oppressive temps that climbed to the 100s, and there was no h
Traci Thomas
Aug 09, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this book. Investigative journalism balanced really well with narrative nonfiction. Fink presents her point of view on this story with a light touch (but she does tell you who some of the bad guys are outright). Fink gives us great storytelling and a fast past nearly 500 page book. I don’t think this book/Fink looked enough into the racial dynamics of patients/doctors/nurses/politicians etc in a very racially fueled city. The book is missing this context which ultimately weakens t ...more
Tim The Enchanter
Posted to The Literary Lawyer.ca

Disturbing and Eye Opening - 3.5 Stars

I generally read fiction but will take a chance on non-fiction when the topic grabs my attention. Five Days at Memorial is certainly thought provoking and deals with issues that many people who do not work in the medical field (and some who do) will find controversial.

The story is set in Memorial Hospital in New Orleans after the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina and the breaking of the levees. After survivin
Emma Carew
Jul 18, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a mess, a train wreck kind of mess. In books like this, with topics like this there are loads of details that the author has to pare down and put in an order that the reader can follow. Sheri Fink doesn't do that here, she just dumps all this info into one steaming pile. She skips from person to person, fact to fact, place to place with no semblance of an order.

For example in the ARC I read on pages 382 and 383 (second part) she names and references 12 different people (Pou, Kokemor
Oct 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book was amazing!!

Sherry Fink has written a well documented and detailed account of what happened at Memorial Hospital in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina in 2006.

I found this book particularly interesting as I work in healthcare and was horrified by all the problems and ethical decisions faced by staff under extreme circumstances. It is really hard to imagine that for five days, physicians, nurses, patients, visitors, family and even several hundred pets sought refuge in a building tha
Jun 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Significant amount of research was pour into this book. Thank you Ms. Sheri Fink.
Working in medical field I was grossly appalled by the moral and financial support Dr Pou and two of her nurses received from the community after being arrested and during trial.
Three of them killed 9 ppl for "humanitarian reasons". Because of it they should be treated as a criminals they were, not as heroes they were made into.
I'm not completely opposed to euthanasia but I would absolutely let my patients decide
Nov 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
What would you do if you were caught in a flood in a hospital and knew your last nine helpless patients would not be evacuated but would in all likelihood drown?  This Pulitzer Prize winner tells the story from multiple perspectives, some perspectives that I would never have even thought of.  And that is my favorite thing about this book.  It challenged my thinking over and over.

Fink introduces the reader to so many participants in this tragedy, helping the reader to understand multiple perspect
Feb 18, 2014 rated it did not like it
This is the first time i have been moved to write a review in addition to just selecting how many stars I give a book. Despite suggestions from NYT articles etc. that Fink is impartial and neutral to the various people depicted in this book, her choice of language, (sometimes subtle, sometimes not) shows her true feelings. Thus I do not think this is a fair or neutral assessment of what happened during this tragedy. It is a lot of opinion masquerading as fact. The truth is not always so simple.
Diane S ☔
Aug 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath was a horrible disaster, and the pictures haunted our television screens for days. So much went on as it actually became for many, survival of the fittest and a die hard effort to protect, feed, shelter and get water for their families. There were such limited resources available for these poor people and the sight of their faces is one I have not forgotten.

At the hospitals, all services were non existent and Sheri Fink does a wonderful job simply stating the
Martin Coghan
Sep 13, 2013 rated it did not like it
As someone holds New Orleans close to my heart, I could not believe that Fink would go on the Daily Show and laugh at the deaths of people in those horrific conditions at Memorial. I get that its a comedy show, but one must question the wisdom of Fink's decision to go on Comedy Central to promote the book - unless her ONLY goal is to make as much money as possible off of the tragic events surrounding Katrina. Her flip little behavior enraged me, as I am sure it did others who still suffer the ef ...more
Aug 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nov-15
Five Days At Memorial, by Sheri Fink, is a spellbinding account of Hurricane Katrina, a disaster which held patients, staff and families of a New Orleans hospital captive and left thousands of others stranded by rising flood waters in the heart of the city.
The first half of the book is the depiction of the horrific events and what led up to them. The second half involves a criminal investigation, the courts, government officials, the medical community, the press and public opinion over how the
Mar 27, 2022 rated it really liked it
This is a harrowing tale (narrative non-fiction) of medical decisions made during a disaster under unimaginable conditions. It was thoroughly researched and reported over several years after Hurricane Katrina by an investigative journalist. It was a compelling read, for the most part, though perhaps a bit too long. The ethical questions raised are important ones to consider and need to be part of every emergency preparedness program. This was written before the Covid pandemic, and I found myself ...more
Susan (aka Just My Op)
You'd think that if your hospital were below water level, you might keep your generators somewhere other than the basement. You'd think lessons painfully learned almost 80 years before in your city would cause you to have an emergency plan in place in case of flooding. You'd think. Think again. And if you think you or your loved ones are safe from harm in a hospital, that it is an island of hope, read this book.

This remarkable story is painful to read. It infuriated, depressed, and fascinated me
Paula K (on hiatus)
Terrific detailed account of the devastating events at Memorial Hospital during Hurricane Katrina. I listened to the audio book while commuting and couldn't wait to get back in my car. A must read. ...more
La Crosse County Library
Review originally published May 2014

"Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn't." ~Erica Jong

We all face ethical dilemmas every day.

Some are relatively minor, such as how to respond to a friend asking if you like her new mullet. Is it okay to tell a little white lie to avoid hurting someone’s feelings?

Some are life or death, such as medical personnel forced to decide which patients to treat first in a disaster with only limited resources.
Valerity (Val)
This was an intense, gut-wrenching read about a hospital in New Orleans, Memorial Hospital, previously known as Baptist, in the days after being hit by Hurricane Katrina on August 28, 2005. Written by Sherri Fink, a physician and reporter spent 6 years investigating and reporting before writing this epic book about what went on after the power went out, and the back up generators failed, and things got harder to contend with. The hospital had not only patients, but doctors, nurses, and other wor ...more
Sep 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Looking for a book that will spark debate and discussion? This is it! Wow! After reading this book, it is obvious that hospitals need to prepare for disasters and have protocols in place for managing patient care when disaster hits!

This was an articulate and eye-opening account of Memorial Hospital in New Orleans, when hurricane Katrina left the hospital without any power and evacuation opportunities were sporadic at best. Amid the chaos, confusion and disorganization, health professionals did
Fink takes on a story with moral and ethical overtones- what killed 45 patients at Memorial Hospital in New Orleans in the days following Hurricane Katrina, in her incredibly fascinating Five Days at Memorial. Fink interviewed dozens of people who were there- doctors, nurses, aides, family members, patients, hospital administrators, rescuers, police investigators, coroners and more to tell her gripping story.

Fink drops the reader right into the hospital during the hurricane and in the horrific a
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Dr. Sheri Fink’s reporting has won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Magazine Award, and the Overseas Press Club Lowell Thomas Award, among other journalism prizes. Most recently, her coverage of the 2012 hurricane season and its effects on the health care systems of New York City and New Orleans won the Mike Berger Award from Columbia Journalism School and the beat reporting award from the Associa ...more

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