Storm Warning: Sheri Fink's Five Days at Memorial

A Katrina-ravaged hospital grapples with mercy and death

In 1967, New Orleans' Southern Baptist Hospital became one of the first facilities in the Southeast to purchase a collection of a miraculous technology known as the crash cart. Its gadgets--respirator, aspirator and defibrillator, among others--could breathe life into a body given up for lost. For doctors who used the crash cart, it meant nothing less than redefining death. And it raised major ethical questions about who would do that redefining and how.

Thirty-eight years later, Southern Baptist Hospital, renamed Memorial Medical Center, lay in the flood zone of Hurricane Katrina. Stranded in a city given over to chaos, with neither...

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