Fink caps final week with lecture on medical ethics after natural disasters



Hurricanes in the Northeast, tornadoes in the deep South and earthquakes in California are among the recent natural disasters that have caused millions of dollars in damage and affected countless lives. Dr. Sheri Fink has reported on such catastrophes and has provided insights on how American hospitals prepare and administer help for these disasters.

Fink is the author of the upcoming release Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital, an account of New Orleans’s Memorial Medical Center in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina — more specifically, the medical ethics displayed in the wake of the disaster. She will discuss her book at 3 p.m. Saturday in the Hall of Philosophy, the final lecture of the season in the Chautauqua Women’s Club Contemporary Issues Forum speaker series.

The material for Five Days at Memorial came from an article Fink wrote in August 2009 for The New York Times Magazine, titled “The Deadly Choices at Memorial.” The article centers around Dr. Anna Pou, a physician at Memorial Medical Center who was suspected to have had a hand in the deaths of hospital patients in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Autopsies revealed that the patients had been injected with lethal amounts of drugs while being treated at Memorial Medical Center during the storm — allegedly on Pou’s orders. The article won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in Investigative Reporting.

In addition to medical ethics, Fink will also discuss disaster preparedness. Women’s Club President Cour Curatolo said that she was drawn to Fink’s work because she is from Florida, a state which is heavily affected by hurricanes each year.

“I always had my hurricane kit growing up in Florida, but now it is more relevant for everyone in the country to be prepared,” Curatolo said. “Dr. Fink is great because she is one person discussing two different aspects of natural disasters — how to prepare before and the ethics that come after.”

Fink is currently a staff reporter at ProPublica, a nonprofit news organization focusing on investigative journalism. Her articles have also appeared in The New York Times and in Scientific American. She is the author of War Hospital: A True Story of Surgery and Survival, a book published in 2004 about war-torn Bosnia-Herzegovina and the ethics of several physicians fighting to save lives.