Disclaimer: I’m not a legal analyst and these thoughts/opinions are solely based on what I learned from Five Days At Memorial by Sheri Fink.
Yesterday, I reviewed Five Days At Memorial by Sheri Fink, but today I want to discuss the questions the book left me with and my thoughts on the institutional failures that led to such a catastrophe. Five Days At Memorial is a non-fiction book and the aftermath of the decisions made at the hospital were highly publicized, so the chances of a spoiler are pretty slim. Even so, if you didn’t follow the news during the subsequent trials and want to read this book without knowing what happened to the doctors involved, I recommend skipping this section. In the meantime, check out this New York Times article and slideshow.
What the heck is wrong with our emergency preparedness efforts? I could go on for days about how bureaucratic red tape hinders progress, but I cannot believe that several years after Hurricane Katrina, hospitals were unprepared for Hurricane Sandy. How is it that, in the United States of America, we repeatedly fail to prepare? Why is it that we wait for disaster to strike before we criticize responses? Very, very frustrating.
Were the patients dying? One of the most difficult parts about reading this book was learning that several of the patients that were euthanized were alert and in little pain earlier in the day. Why did Dr. Pou decide to euthanize them? Did she really think she was helping them or was she just trying to save herself?
How do you decide who to euthanize? The book pointed out an interesting study where doctors and nurses were part of a “fake disaster” and needed to decide which patients would receive the rationed oxygen and which would be allowed to die. Turns out, the medical professionals were wrong and their “designated to die” patients actually lived longer, on average, than the “save-able” ones.
Why is Dr. Pou still allowed to give speeches that spread lies? Setting aside her alleged involvement in euthanizing patients, Pou has repeatedly given speeches in which she blames the Coast Guard for not flying at night (untrue) and misleading the public in terms of their arrival times (she says late afternoon, but they arrived in the morning).
What ever happened to Susan Mulderick? Susan Mulderick is, in my mind, equally culpable, if not more so, than Dr. Pou. According to witnesses, Mulderick repeatedly told helicopters not to come to the hospital and refused to let them land. Had she not done so, all of the patients may have made it out alive and avoiding the situation with Pou altogether.
Why were all of the deserted patients LifeCare patients? Most of the euthanized patients were a part of LifeCare, a critical care company that operated out of Memorial. It was not, however, LifeCare nurses or doctors that administered the drugs, but Memorial doctors. Because Memorial reportedly refused to let LifeCare patients on their helicopters, their critical patients were left to die and this, too, is on Susan Mulderick for sending helicopters away.
Why didn’t the prosecution bring in all of the witnesses? From what I gather, the prosecution failed to call several witnesses to testify before the grand jury, a couple of whom were the key to an indictment. Add to that the coroner’s fear of political backlash for calling the deaths “murder” and I think it’s fair to say that justice was even allowed to prevail because the case against Dr. Pou was doomed from the start.