For Book Clubs

Discussion Questions

  • To understand the pressures doctors and nurses faced, readers needed to know exactly what it felt like to be trapped in a sweltering hospital in a city that had descended into chaos. Do you think Sheri Fink does a good job of recreating those conditions?
  • What do you think of the behavior and decisions made by the medical staff at Memorial? Where you shocked by the lethal injections of morphine? According to Dr. Ewing Cook, “It was actually to the point where you were considering that you couldn’t just leave them; the humane thing would be to put ’em out.’’ What do you think?
  • What shocked, or disturbed, you the most? The actions of the staff? The unpreparedness (short-sightedness?) of the hospital? The horrific conditions everyone operated under?
  • What legal and ethical standards must doctors be expected to uphold in a disaster? Should they—or any professional—be held to the same standards that operate during normal conditions? In other words, is there a gray area in ethics when things go disastrously wrong?
  • In such situations as occured at Memorial, who should be saved first? Who should make those decisions?
  • Why did the local grand jury decline to bring charges against Anna Pou? Do you agree with its decision? To what degree should Pou be held accountable for her actions?
  • Ultimately, who is most responsible for the tragedy at Memorial Hospital? The hospital owners? The staff? The local, state, or federal government?
  • What lessons were learned from the hospital disaster at Memorial?

Discussion questions by Lit Lovers

Quotes to Note

  • Fink writes, “Concepts of triage and medical rationing are a barometer of how those in power in a society value human life.” Does the story that she relates of Memorial prove this idea for you?
  • “Those who did better were those who didn’t wait idly for help to arrive. In the end, with systems crashing and failing, what mattered most and had the greatest immediate effects were the actions and decisions made in the midst of a crisis by individuals.” How can we apply this idea?

Quotes from


Book Club Kits

A Book Club Kit contains 13 copies of Five Days at Memorial (including 2 large print copies and one audio book CD) as well as discussion resources. Any community book club can borrow a kit for a lending period of 1 month through their local library.