An enlightening and well-supported examination of shocking malfeasance.

CARTE BLANCHE

THE EROSION OF MEDICAL CONSENT

An alarming indictment of exploitative medical research.

Medical ethicist and journalist Washington offers considerable evidence of deceptive and devious practices in medical research, which especially impact Black Americans. After World War II, she notes, in response to “forcible human experimentation” inflicted upon prisoners and concentration camp victims, “the Nuremberg Code was imposed to ban research without voluntary consent. Informed consent was enshrined into U.S. law in 1947 to ensure that research would never be imposed on Americans without their knowledge or consent.” However, researchers have found ways to undermine that law, leading to the continuation of nonconsensual experimental abuse. Reprising evidence that she presented in Medical Apartheid (2007), Washington underscores her argument that African Americans historically have been victimized by researchers. “Whether subjected to laissez-faire experimentation on the plantation, early clinics, or other institutions, black Americans were sold to doctors expressly for nineteenth-century research and physician-training purposes,” she writes. This included the testing of reproductive surgical procedures on Black women “because unlike white women, they could not say no.” The infamous Tuskegee syphilis study, which ran from 1932 to 1972, withheld treatment for 600 Black men diagnosed with syphilis, instead maintaining them in an infected state so they could be “tracked, studied, and ultimately autopsied.” In 2010, researchers “intentionally induced hypothermia in unwitting black men who suffered gunshot wounds.” Prisoners and soldiers have repeatedly become research subjects without their consent, but Washington asserts that nonconsensual research—for profit—is becoming more normalized, risking the well-being of all Americans. She advocates clear disclosures to allow the average patient to agree to become an informed participant, including “possible lifestyle effects” of a given study. A patient who refuses or is deemed incapable of consent “should be considered ineligible for research and simply treated with the best known care, as if there were no research study to worry about.”

An enlightening and well-supported examination of shocking malfeasance.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-73442-072-2

Page Count: 150

Publisher: Columbia Global Reports

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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A lucid (in the sky with diamonds) look at the hows, whys, and occasional demerits of altering one’s mind.

THIS IS YOUR MIND ON PLANTS

Building on his lysergically drenched book How to Change Your Mind (2018), Pollan looks at three plant-based drugs and the mental effects they can produce.

The disastrous war on drugs began under Nixon to control two classes of perceived enemies: anti-war protestors and Black citizens. That cynical effort, writes the author, drives home the point that “societies condone the mind-changing drugs that help uphold society’s rule and ban the ones that are seen to undermine it.” One such drug is opium, for which Pollan daringly offers a recipe for home gardeners to make a tea laced with the stuff, producing “a radical and by no means unpleasant sense of passivity.” You can’t overthrow a government when so chilled out, and the real crisis is the manufacture of synthetic opioids, which the author roundly condemns. Pollan delivers a compelling backstory: This section dates to 1997, but he had to leave portions out of the original publication to keep the Drug Enforcement Administration from his door. Caffeine is legal, but it has stronger effects than opium, as the author learned when he tried to quit: “I came to see how integral caffeine is to the daily work of knitting ourselves back together after the fraying of consciousness during sleep.” Still, back in the day, the introduction of caffeine to the marketplace tempered the massive amounts of alcohol people were drinking even though a cup of coffee at noon will keep banging on your brain at midnight. As for the cactus species that “is busy transforming sunlight into mescaline right in my front yard”? Anyone can grow it, it seems, but not everyone will enjoy effects that, in one Pollan experiment, “felt like a kind of madness.” To his credit, the author also wrestles with issues of cultural appropriation, since in some places it’s now easier for a suburbanite to grow San Pedro cacti than for a Native American to use it ceremonially.

A lucid (in the sky with diamonds) look at the hows, whys, and occasional demerits of altering one’s mind.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-29690-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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