“What conditions can possibly justify the taking of a human life?”
The Attorney General of Louisiana asks this question to a group of reporters in a press conference after it is announced that the jury decided not to indict Dr. Anna Pou for murder. It seems the show is also asking this question to the audience. After everything you have watched, what do you believe is a doctor’s purpose?
Episode 7: Butch and Virginia are finally able to access Memorial Medical Center now that they have a search warrant. As they investigate the property, they find a large storage of food and water that was supposedly non-existent before. It brings an important question forward: can we trust anything we watched before? After watching this, any viewers who were on the fence on whether Dr. Pou’s actions were acceptable have certainly changed their minds. Even though the government required everyone to evacuate, one can’t help but think that there was a way through this without using euthanasia.
Dr. King talking about his experience at Memorial was one of the most powerful parts of the episode. The explanation of racial relationships within the hospital was necessary considering the medical staff and patients also reflect the diversity of New Orleans. These layers add to the tension, especially considering the presence of guns in the hospital. Dr. King realized that in his position as the new black doctor he had to be selective when he chose to speak up. His morals shined throughout the series, as he always made it clear he believed doctors were supposed to save lives, not to end suffering. He was the philosophical opposite of Dr. Pou.
Seeing the investigators and their subjects accidentally meet in the destroyed leftovers of Memorial was a great choice. If that coincidence wasn’t a product of a dramatization then that would be surprising. Dr. Pou was clearly upset by that situation, but it is hard to forget the fear that she felt there was only a fraction of what her victims felt as she ended their lives. And now that so much quality evidence has been collected and she has been arrested, how could she not answer for her crimes?
Episode 8: One can’t help but think the District Attorney is one of the locals, like coroner Dr. Minyard, who believes it is more dangerous to indict Dr. Pou because of the repercussions on the medical community come future storms. Despite all the evidence being so well-collected, it seems like he is just another person in power trying to protect an equal. Sending the Assistant District Attorney to be the lead on such a crucial case seems purposeful, as well as the lack of expert witnesses giving testimony in the trial. He barely tried to win this case, and it is heartbreaking to see Butch and Virginia react to this after the case has become so personal.
It is fair to say that even though these doctors went through something horrible and traumatic it does not negate the privilege that they have. During Hurricane Katrina, they were lucky to at least have had a roof over their heads in the hospital and cars to go sit in where they could rest in the air conditioning. More generally, and more importantly, they make a significant amount more money than the rest of the community they serve. Dr. Pou’s defense fee is a perfect example of privilege protecting itself. It is even harder considering the face of Butch and Virginia’s investigation was manual laborer Emmett Everett.
Dr. Pou had been told over and over that she was in the right, that she did nothing wrong, and it affected her memory of the event. When Dr. Horace Baltz confronts her at the banquet and corrects her on what happened at Memorial, it feels like the dose of reality she has lost over the years of telling what she thinks the story is. She’s become wrapped up in her own narrative and she’s lost perspective. Unfortunately, the victims and their family members didn’t even get the chance to tell their stories in court, but it’s nice to see someone could get the last word in.
Five Days at Memorial is the perfect example of two things being true at once. The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina was horrible because the government’s response was an absolute failure, not to mention the lack of planning. At the same time, Dr. Pou can do a very evil thing to many innocent people. Both should be held accountable.
The series is an emotionally exhausting watch. I think if the writers had condensed the story, it would be more bearable. The situation is so painfully real that even coming back to it weekly takes a lot of determination. It drives you to anger at the failures of bureaucracy and these companies such as Tenet. The gut punch at the end of seeing that Dr. Pou and her attorney helped draft new laws to protect the medical community in the face of natural disasters is a difficult thing to read. While I was expecting some obvious themes from the beginning, privilege protecting itself was not one of them, but it needed to be said now more than ever before.