Five Days at Memorial

"Explore the gripping narrative of 'Five Days at Memorial' book. A thought-provoking account of ethical dilemmas during Hurricane Katrina. Discover the moral complexities in this compelling read."
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Sheri Fink
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In “Five Days at Memorial,” investigative journalist and author Sheri Fink takes readers on a harrowing journey through one of the most challenging and ethically complex moments in recent medical history. This meticulously researched and thought-provoking book chronicles the events that unfolded at Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans during and after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Fink explores the difficult decisions made by healthcare professionals, the desperation of patients and their families, and the moral dilemmas that arose in the midst of chaos.


“Five Days at Memorial” opens with a vivid account of the chaos that descended upon New Orleans as Hurricane Katrina struck in August 2005. The city’s infrastructure crumbled, leaving hospitals, including Memorial Medical Center, grappling with unimaginable challenges. As floodwaters rose and essential resources dwindled, healthcare workers at Memorial were forced to make life-and-death decisions under extreme conditions. The central dilemma revolved around the administration of lethal doses of medication to patients deemed unlikely to survive the ordeal. This decision, known as euthanasia or mercy killing, has sparked controversy and ethical debates ever since.

Sheri Fink delves into the lives of healthcare professionals who found themselves trapped in this dire situation, portraying their courage, vulnerability, and the tremendous moral weight they carried. The narrative is filled with gripping accounts of doctors and nurses struggling to provide care amidst chaos, exhaustion, and limited resources. Fink’s storytelling is both empathetic and impartial, allowing readers to understand the complexities of the situation without passing judgment.


The New York Times described “Five Days at Memorial” as “a remarkable achievement in investigative journalism.” They praised Fink’s ability to blend meticulous research with compelling storytelling, making the book both informative and emotionally resonant.

The Washington Post hailed the book as “a gripping and haunting account of the decisions made in the darkest hours of Hurricane Katrina.” They commended Fink for her in-depth exploration of the ethical dilemmas faced by medical professionals.

NPR’s Fresh Air called the book “a sobering and thought-provoking examination of the moral dilemmas that arise in disaster situations.” They highlighted Fink’s ability to capture the human side of the tragedy.

The Atlantic stated that “Five Days at Memorial” is “a book that challenges readers to confront uncomfortable questions about life, death, and the limits of medical ethics.” They noted the book’s power to spark discussions on these crucial topics.


“In disasters, especially those that stretch on for days, physicians and nurses and pharmacists can serve not just as healers but also as gatekeepers, deciding who receives care and who is left to die.” – Sheri Fink

“Five Days at Memorial” reminds us that in the face of extreme adversity, our moral compass can be tested, and the choices we make can have profound consequences for both individuals and society as a whole.” – Sheri Fink

“The chaos and desperation at Memorial during Hurricane Katrina expose the fragility of our healthcare system and the need for robust disaster preparedness.” – Sheri Fink

“This book challenges us to consider what we would do in the same situation, and whether our moral convictions would hold firm when faced with the stark reality of life and death decisions.” – Sheri Fink


Q : What is the central ethical dilemma explored in “Five Days at Memorial”?
A : “Five Days at Memorial” delves into the ethical dilemma of euthanasia or mercy killing during a disaster. Healthcare professionals at Memorial Medical Center were faced with the difficult decision of administering lethal doses of medication to patients they believed had little chance of survival.

Q : How does Sheri Fink present the healthcare professionals’ experiences during Hurricane Katrina?
A : Fink portrays the healthcare professionals as individuals who displayed immense courage and vulnerability. She provides a detailed and empathetic account of their struggles, exhaustion, and the moral burdens they carried while providing care in extremely challenging conditions.

Q : What makes “Five Days at Memorial” stand out as a piece of investigative journalism?
A : The book stands out due to its meticulous research, compelling storytelling, and its ability to tackle complex ethical questions. It combines factual accuracy with a gripping narrative that allows readers to engage with the subject matter on both an intellectual and emotional level.

“Five Days at Memorial” is a powerful and thought-provoking book that sheds light on the ethical dilemmas that can arise in the midst of a disaster. Sheri Fink’s meticulous research and compelling storytelling make it a must-read for anyone interested in medical ethics, disaster preparedness, and the resilience of the human spirit in the face of unimaginable challenges. This book challenges us to confront uncomfortable questions about life, death, and the limits of medical ethics, ultimately leaving a lasting impact on its readers.