Sunday, February 15, 2015

Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink

Five Days at Memorial
by Sheri Fink
5 stars - a lot to think about
ALR Yellow - pets euthanized rather than be left behind, implied deaths of others

From the dust cover:

After Katrina struck and the flood waters rose, the power failed, and the heat climbed, exhausted caregivers chose to designate certain patients last for rescue. Months later, several health professionals faced criminal allegations that they deliberately injected numerous patients with drugs to hasten their deaths.

The first part of the book deals with the five days during and after Katrina where doctors, families, and patients at Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans were faced with unimaginable hardship and decisions. Critically ill patients and mismanaged rescue attempts forced them to make increasingly difficult decisions about who should go on the rescue helicopters and how to move patients without causing further harm to them. 

Once "rescued" many spent hours or days at roadside dropping points, waiting for evacuation and treatment. 

Ms. Fink spent six years researching this book and through interviews and documents, she is able to piece together most of what went on during Katrina. It's all just awful and, if nothing else, will remind readers that, in some instances, if you weren't there, you can't judge.

The second part of the book is about the charges of homicide brought against medical professionals, not just at Memorial, but at other hospitals and nursing homes. I won't tell you the outcome. I will say that as I read through the cases presented by both sides of the argument, I found myself mired in very murky waters indeed and struggling to decide on my own whether the decisions made were the right ones.

The book ends with a discussion of what has been done post-Katrina to improve emergency preparedness of hospitals in the US. In short, some steps have been taken, but not nearly enough. Nobody wants to think about the worst case until it happens. Businesses and communities hold tightly to their wallets. Proactive, costly evacuations, if not followed by the expected devastation of facilities get marked as wastes of resources. 

Five Days at Memorial is well written and very readable. But I warn you, it is filled with anguish and will likely haunt you for some time to come. 

1 comment:

  1. My daughter is a nurse in a hospital in Harrisburg. Decisions such as the ones in this book are not black and white. Everyone thinks the patient they know should be saved first in case of an evacuation such as during Katrina, but it's never that simple. One of her co-workers was griping about spouses who stay at the hospital, because that would be additional people to evacuate in case of emergency. My daughter's attitude is that said spouses are ambulatory, and would be helpful because their sole mission in an emergency would be to save their own loved one, thus freeing nurses and aides to save others. As you said, it's very murky.