Reporting Alleged Euthanasia: "The Deadly Choices at Memorial"
In the catastrophic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, one story riveted the medical community: At Memorial Medical Center, doctors and nurses were accused of euthanizing sick patients in the flooded hospital. In the ensuing legal and media battle, the details of exactly what happened remained murky even as the implications of the case grew. After a grand jury failed to indict anyone, and as shock turned to support for the accused, the story became ammunition for a growing movement to change medical standards and exempt health workers from prosecution for their conduct during disasters.
Four years later, after two and a half years of investigation, ProPublica reporter Sheri Fink has written the definitive account of those four tragic days. Drawing on her experience as a physician, humanitarian aid workers and previous reporting on medical care in wartime conditions, Fink tracked down previously unavailable records and interviewed dozens of those involved, including several who spoke on the record for the first time. Her 13,000-word narrative "The Deadly Choices at Memorial," appearing as part of a multimedia package at ProPublica.org and in the Aug. 30 edition of the New York Times Magazine, elucidates the context and consequences of the decisions that left at least 18 patients dead after injections of painkillers and sedatives administered in the final hours of the hospital's evacuation.
In an exclusive interview with Bruce Shapiro, executive director of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, Sheri Fink described how she found the story, how she reported it and how she sees its broader implications.