Dr. Anna Pou's Comments
On Sheri Fink
On the eve of the 17th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the event that changed my life and the lives of so many, I find myself focusing on all the good that has come from my experiences, not the pain. I am filled with gratitude for the generosity, love and support I have received not only from my family, colleagues and patients, but from total strangers. All of us who were deeply affected by Hurricane Katrina and the citizens of New Orleans have helped each other heal through love, compassion and faith; we have continued to move forward despite grief and loss to rebuild our lives and our beloved city. There is one notable exception-Sheri Fink. Through the filming of the miniseries “Five Days at Memorial” she has forced many to relive the horrors faced in the aftermath of the Hurricane Katrina. She has monetarily profited greatly from the suffering of others under the guise of understanding the ethics of disaster medicine and presenting a fair and compassionate analysis of events although she was not there.
I first met Sheri Fink at a Houston fundraiser to support my defense on May 18, 2007. She misrepresented herself as a sympathetic supporter of mine and my colleagues. She expressed to me and my attorney, Rick Simmons, her interest in writing “my story” as she had been following my “tribulations with great sympathy.” The answer I gave was, and still is, no. She did it anyway, with her own spin and motivation. She paid to attend the fundraiser for my defense pretending to be my supporter, all the while she was investigating me. This act alone is unethical by anyone’s standards. As a self-proclaimed medical ethicist, it is despicable.
When I first met Sheri Fink, I instinctively distrusted her, but I had no idea at that time that she would insinuate herself into my life and harass friends, patients and colleagues in order to profit from the pain and suffering of others. She was relentless in her quest as expressed to me by many. She represented herself to all as a physician whose main focus of research was disaster preparedness and ethics, not as a journalist for hire. She did so to gain access to my family, friends, colleagues and patients in order to find out information about my entire life, my character and my actions at Memorial Hospital in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina so that she could represent me in a” compassionate and fair” way in an article that she was writing. She stalked me for over 2 years after my refusal to allow her to write “my story” appearing at lectures given by me in multiple states questioning many attendees as to their opinion of me. I attempted to obtain a restraining order against her but because she is “media” I could not.
Her initial email to my attorney was signed with her credentials including her appointment to the Harvard School of Public Health as a visiting scientist, implying that her main interest was medicine and research, not journalism. Nowhere was it mentioned that she was writing a for-profit story for Pro-Publica.
Ms. Fink not only misrepresented herself to many, but she violated the most sacred bond patient-doctor relationship. I ultimately found out that she contacted some of my partners, under the false pretense that she wanted to write something “positive” about me. Unknown to me, the wife of a patient agreed to speak with Ms. Fink. The family was very supportive and wanted to do help me in any way that they could. She then committed one of the most despicable acts a person can commit, even a journalist. She traveled to their home in a small town in Louisiana to meet with my dying patient and his wife. She arrived with her tape recorder and camera and wanted to photograph him, as he lay dying (he had undergone multiple surgeries on his face). I know this, because his wife told me so. Ms. Fink contaminated that sacred time that people in love spend together at the end of life. When I confronted Ms. Fink about this, she adamantly denied it. I knew that my patient’s wife did not lie, and I knew that Ms. Fink did.
Her email to me regarding this event is as follows: 8/9/2007 9:01 am
“….I would not engage in that sort of exploitation. Please understand that my aim is to fully and correctly convey both the important events that you and your colleagues experienced and the outstanding people that you so clearly are….I believe with all my heart that you and the important lessons that you have to share deserve a compassionate and accurate depiction rather than a shallow and sensationalistic one. “
I find this ironic as she did exactly what she said she would not do—she wrote a sensational story that victimized innocent people for her own financial and reputational gain.
Do not be misled by her timid and demure demeanor; she is a ruthless, persistent and deceitful journalist hiding behind the shield of the 1st Amendment. Sheri Fink possesses a true talent for ”spinning” the truth. When I could not confirm information for her New York Times article regarding events at Memorial Hospital during the “fact” checking process, she threatened me if I did not answer her questions. When other healthcare workers corrected her on her facts, she ignored their responses. Ms. Fink also misquoted the disaster legislation that was passed into Louisiana law in 2008 saying that I passed laws so that healthcare workers could legally kill patients during disasters.
I wonder if those on the committee who awarded her the Pulitzer Prize for her article “Deadly Choices at Memorial” condone the dishonest, unethical and threatening tactics she used during her investigation. Perhaps they do. In that case, her award was indeed well earned.