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Pulitzer Prize-winner Sheri Fink: the final hours at New Orleans Memorial

Pulitzer Prize-winner Sheri Fink is one of Stanford’s own. She received her MD and PhD in neuroscience from the School of Medicine.

When I read her prize-winning article in The New York Times magazine last August, I was riveted. I was also shocked and outraged. How could physicians participate in mercy killings? Wasn’t this murder? To me, the situation was black and white. But Fink doesn’t see it that way. She tells me in this 1:2:1 podcast that it’s not that simple. After all, the final holdouts at New Orleans Memorial Hospital were still, in many ways, heroic individuals trying in the worst of circumstances to keep patients alive and the hospital literally afloat. And, they were abandoned. Abandoned by the city of New Orleans, the state of Louisiana and the U.S. government. But still, the facts are deeply troubling: physicians delivering fatal doses of sedatives somewhat capriciously. What if my mother or father had been at Memorial in the final hours? Would I be at peace with the fatal and final decisions about who lived and who died? I think not.

I hope you’ll go back and read Fink’s article and listen to the podcast. Consider what happened during the days and the desperate hours of Memorial Hospital in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. Put yourself there. What would you have done? How would you have reacted? Is it black and white? Or is it gray?

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