Get reporting tips from winners, finalists
ProPublica reporter and AHCJ member Sheri Fink, M.D., won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting for her recounting of “the urgent life-and-death decisions made by one hospital’s exhausted doctors when they were cut off by the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina. the days immediately following Hurricane Katrina.” Her piece also earned second place in AHCJ’s 2009 Awards for Excellence in Health Care Journalism.
Read Fink’s article for AHCJ about how she reported the story.
An entry from the Los Angeles Times and ProPublica, written by AHCJ President Charles Ornstein and Tracy Weber (a joint entry), was a nominated finalist in the public service category. Ornstein and Weber reported on “gaps in California’s oversight of dangerous and incompetent nurses, blending investigative scrutiny and multimedia storytelling to produce corrective changes.” AHCJ’s Web site features an extensive tip sheet from the reporters about how to evaluate nurse oversight in any state.
Health Journalism 2010 speaker wins for explanatory journalism
Explanatory Pulitzer winner Michael Moss, who wrote about “contaminated hamburger and other food safety issues that, in print and online, spotlighted defects in federal regulation and led to improved practices” will be speaking about food safety at Health Journalism 2010.
AHCJ president Charles Ornstein, with Sheri Fink, M.D., writes for ProPublica about the report of an Institute of Medicine committee indicating “urgent and clear need” for consistent national guidelines for care during catastrophes, “particularly on such thorny questions as which patients should receive scarce treatments or equipment and which should go without.”
The report calls for ethical guidance and specifically notes that such decisions should not be made on the basis of “Do Not Resuscitate” orders, as Fink showed they were in Memorial Hospital in New Orleans in the days after Katrina. The panel was less clear when it came to naming exactly which tools should be relied on to make touch decisions after disasters, saying that further research was necessary.
In a story that is being co-published by The New York Times Magazine and ProPublica, Sheri Fink, M.D., painstakingly reconstructed the hectic, troubling events that transpired at Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans in the days after Hurricane Katrina swept through the city. In that time, 45 patients died at the center – more than at any comparable hospital in the area – and, although a grand jury did not issue any indictments in relation to the deaths, there are indications that some of the deceased patients may have been euthanized.
Fink “obtained previously unavailable records and interviewed dozens of people who were involved in the events at Memorial and the investigation that followed.” She writes that more medical professionals and more patients were involved than previously thought and that “Several were almost certainly not near death when they were injected, according to medical professionals who treated them at Memorial and an internist’s review of their charts and autopsies that was commissioned by investigators but never made public.”
In addition to the doctors, nurses and patients involved in the controversial deaths, Fink also tells the story of the coroner and investigators charged with untangling the post-Katrina events at Memorial Medical Center and how they struggled to administer justice while taking into account the extraordinary circumstances that followed the hurricane.
The extensive package includes a video interview with Fink about how her background as a physician, humanitarian aid workers and previous reporting on medical care in wartime conditions helped her report this story.