Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Five Days at Memorial; Sheri Fink

Crown - Random House Audio - 2013

Five Days at Memorial was an eye opening account of what happened at Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans during and immediately following Hurricane Katrina in August of 2005.  The author, Sheri Fink, a doctor and medical journalist, who had worked in disaster relief in the past, spent six years investigating what led to the deaths of 20% of the patients at the hospital who were never evacuated.  Their bodies instead were housed in a makeshift morgue on one of the higher floors of the storm ravaged medical center.

Just what was the disaster and evacuation plan for the medical center? Who made the critical life and death decisions during the hurricane as to which patients would be transferred out and which would be left to die?

When the power went out and the generators eventually died, chaos resulted, and it appears that desperate times called for desperate measures. A doctor and two nurses were accused of euthanizing the sickest patients by over-medicating them and hastening their deaths.

What a fascinating story! The author reports the tragic story in a totally factual and unbiased manner, taking no sides and letting the reader draw their own conclusions.  The audiobook, read by Kirsten Potter was riveting.  Seeing to how various people reacted in desperate times was an interesting look at human behavior in crisis.  I do wish that some of the key staff, family members and patients were more fully developed, but I can understand that Fink's intent was to report her findings and not delve deep into the psyches and backgrounds of the people involved.

A scary look at just how unprepared one hospital was when disaster struck. 

Read It! 4.5/5 stars
(library audiobook)


  1. One of my book club friends just recommended this book, too. Glad to hear the audio version is well done… I'll probably get to it sooner that way.

  2. When I first heard about this book I didn't think it sounded appealing but it's getting such great reviews, I'm anxious to try it.

  3. I read this, too. FIVE DAYS AT MEMORIAL is nonfiction the way I wish all nonfiction books were: detailed without letting the details get in the way of an honest-to-gosh edge-of-your-seat story. This is an outstanding book.

    And the author's presentationisn't boring, either. Yet all the details are there, with a journalist's skill of maintaining objectivity; Fink gives us no opinion, just the facts.

    We can also finally understand what went on with the intended prosecution of one of the doctors, how the media influenced the outcome.

    During a book event with Sheri Fink that I attended at the Jewish Community Center in West Bloomfield, Michigan, she stated that this story all comes down to how ill-prepared our hospitals are for emergencies such as this hurricane. Of course, that's true. But that's not all. Really, it's about so much more than that.

  4. I have heard really good things about this audio. Hopefully I will get a chance to listen to it this year. :)

  5. I really want to read this one. It sounds like such a well told story, not to mention an emotional one. And scary since it's all true.

  6. I have this in print and if I don't get to it soon I'm going to go with the audio now that I know it's a good production.

  7. Such a scary and unimaginable thing. It's hard to know what one would do. This looks really interesting.

  8. This is one of those books I can't wait to read but also dread reading at the same time.

  9. I've been so curious about this book. I'm glad to hear it's a great read.

  10. I thought this book was incredible. It's definitely one of the best nonfiction books I've read in a while.

    Great review!

  11. I'm on the wait list for the audio at my library. I can't wait to give it a try!


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