Lacks of Respect

I’ve seen this movie before, but it maintains incredible impact even after several viewings. The theme goes very well with the chapters we just read on medical mistrust. It demonstrates that how black individuals were mistreated by medical professionals in the past can impact their desire to seek care in future generations. There is a justification for this mistrust. While we hope that all medial professionals will treat patients specifically based on their symptoms and conditions, based on how they have treated people of color in the past, it is understandable why people of color often do not trust practitioners.

The case of Henrietta Lacks obviously could have been handled better. The complicated question is, how can it be rectified? What is Johns Hopkins responsible in doing to correct the situation, if anything? They can abandon these horrid mistreatments of their past and go forward treating patients with respect, consideration and equity. They can move forward with different attitudes and practices in the care they provide, but do they personally owe anything to the family? What they were doing was not technically a violation of the ethical laws in place at the time. It is a reflection of rampant racial mistreatment that existed in many different areas of life, not just the medical field. So while it would be decent of Johns Hopkins to reach out and attempt to rectify the situation with the Lacks family, I doubt that they can be forced to do much. Plus, it is important to keep in mind that JH was one of the only facilities at the time to treat black patients. This does not make what they did right, but does it make what they did more forgivable? Probably not, but I thought that fact was worth considering.

If anything, I am really surprised with how the author treated the family following the success of the published book. In the film, Rebecca Skloot seems to care a lot about Dale and her family. After publishing, she did start the foundation she promised that family. However, considering how much money she made off of those books, I think she really could have given back more to the family. It is their story and their life that made her book so successful. She of course deserved credit for the interviewing, writing, and work she put in to get it published. But again, I feel like the Lacks family got taken advantage of because of their mother’s story. This is especially disheartening if it is true that Rebecca’s father also endured medical mistreatment. She knows how the family feels and also that they are doing poorly health-wise. I am irritated that the family did not benefit more from the publishing of Henrietta’s story.

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