DECEMBER 2013

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Five Days at Memorial
Sheri Fink
2013

Hurricane Katrina still marks Louisiana in big and small ways.  Eight years on, the population of New Orleans is still well below pre-storm levels.  But the tourists are back. The restaurants are booming, and the Saints play in the Superdome without recrimination.  So with time comes perspective, 

Sheri Fink's Pulitzer-prize winning novel is a great telling of the storm and its after effects.  She focuses on Memorial Medical Center, a turn of the  20th century hospital that had weathered many storms.  Neighbors took refuge in its solid corridors bringing pets and food to wait in community, However, this time was different, and this time was deadly.  Accusations of mercy killings with elderly patients being euthinized began to circulate as the waters receded.  Investigations were started and charges finally brought against a doctor and two nurses.

Fink tells a nuanced tale that starts with a history of the hospital and delves into detailed and multiple accounts of the five days doctors, nurses, patients and neighbors were stranded at the facility.  The second half of the book focuses on the investigation and the determination of whether a crime was committed.  Would an indictment help heal a community or aggravate open wounds?

Sheri Fink is former relief worker in disaster and conflict zones, Fink received her M.D. and Ph.D. from Stanford University. The story of Memorial Medical first appeared in The New York TImes magazine.

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