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Contest Entries

The Deadly Choices at Memorial

Entrants: Sheri Fink

Affiliation: ProPublica/The New York Times Magazine

General Interest Magazines above 1 million circ.

Year: 2009

Place: Second Place

Provide a brief synopsis of the story or stories, including any significant findings.

A 13,000-word chronicle of what happened when floodwaters rose, generators failed, and a New Orleans hospital was cut off from the world. Among the key findings: Several health professionals from Memorial acknowledged that they had deliberately injected severely ill patients to hasten their deaths. More patients than previously suspected had been injected before their deaths, the vast majority after a long-awaited rescue effort was at last under way.

Judges' comments: Sheri Fink went behind the scenes – and back in time – to craft this meticulous account of the events that took place at New Orleans' Memorial Medical Center in the critical hours after Katrina's floodwaters first surrounded the hospital, then caused the failure of the emergency power supplies sustaining critically ill patients. Through extensive interviews and new research, Fink explored the reasoning behind the life-and-death decisions made while staff and patients were awaiting evacuation, but unsure when and if it would arrive. Her compelling reporting from a variety of vantage points helps explain why the events at Memorial during those tense hours continue to be the focus of debate and controversy long after Katrina's floodwaters have receded.

Read "The Deadly Choices at Memorial."

See the archived story and the questionnaire in which the reporter writes about how this story was written.

In an article exclusively for AHCJ, Fink shares tips on covering a complex story for the long haul.