Five Days at Memorial by Sherry Fink

fivedaysBy now you have no doubt heard of Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink. The coverage of the book’s release in the press was thorough and exultant. The story behind the book is both startling and sensational. Five Days at Memorial presents a detailed account of what happened at Memorial Hospital in New Orleans after the infamous Hurricane Katrina.

I will not go into the details of the plight of hospital workers and patients who remained at Memorial during Katrina and the subsequent flooding aside from saying it was horrific. No rescue plan was put in place and it appears that chaos reigned. By the time the hospital was evacuated five days later an unprecedented number dead bodies lined the makeshift morgue. This book details those five days and the controversial decisions that were made.

The book is divided into two sections: during the storm and subsequent disaster and the legal battles that followed. Both sections are extremely thorough, detailed and well-researched. This is important and captivating during the disaster period, however I found the legal wranglings of the second section to be a little bit long. I admit that i skimmed portions of it. So, although I loved the book when I started it, by the time I finished I was just waiting for it to end.

As a Canadian with state funded health care, one of the things I found most shocking about the disaster was the role that for profit healthcare companies played in the way in which events unraveled. I didn’t even know that a hospital could be run as a money making venture and never considered that money would play such a crucial role in a disaster such as Hurricane Katrina.

Who would like this book? People are drawn to disasters. We like to imagine what we would do if we were even put in such adverse conditions. Five Days at Memorial certainly puts you in that position. For the entire first half of the book I was on edge, and that was a good thing. Fink transports you to New Orleans during Katrina, making you live the disaster alongside the key players at Memorial. Although this book is well suited to the general reader, it should also be a must read for anyone involved in healthcare and disaster preparedness. There are definitely lessons to be learned in Five Days at Memorial.


  1. I bought this one recently but haven’t gotten to it yet. I’m very interested and looking forward to reading it soon. I agree with Shannon there that it’s pretty messed up here as far as healthcare, big pharma, insurance companies, and disaster relief.

  2. Even as an American, I was shocked at the poor administrative decision making that went into making this such a disaster. Obviously, hindsight is perfect, but it’s still hard to believe that everyone didn’t do everything they could to rescue people as fast as possible.

  3. As a US citizen, I was… well surprised isn’t the right word. Upset? Disheartened? But certainly not shocked that profit played into the rescue of patients after Katrina. At the very least, it is the reason that the procedures and location of the generators weren’t updated. Did you ever want the author to take more of a stand? I understand why she did not let her opinion really shine, but I wanted to know what she thought of what happened. She probably knows more than almost anyone about this case, but I never really knew what she thought and I kind of wish I did.

  4. Fink was very good at not letting her opinions shine through. But I still kind of think she painted Anna Pou into a corner. I didn’t get a good vibe from her and I kind of wanted to feel a bit more sympathy for her. That would have made the book more complex.

  5. Pingback: Nonfiction November Week 3 Round Up | Regular Rumination

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