Institutional Racism In Medical Research

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Through an abundance of medical and historical accounts, Medical Apartheid and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks exemplify how institutional racism has shaped the lives of African Americans. From the beginning of slavery through emancipation, African Americans have overwhelmingly been at the center of unethical medical research. The vast majority of this research has been done unwillingly. For research and experimentation that received the participant’s permission, there were usually hidden elements they were unaware of. Henrietta Washington sites specific examples, ranging from experimentation on plantations to post-emancipation radiation testing on African Americans. Rebecca Skloot takes a more in depth approach and follows a family who…show more content…
She not only shed light on ways institutional racism shaped the lives of African Americans, she showed how medical researchers profited from this racism. After claiming to be in a blood deficit, John Hopkins hospital refused to give anymore to Henrietta. Proving that every patient has a specific face value. John Hopkins was renowned to some for giving free medical care to patients. In return, patients were giving them free reign of there bodies for experimentation. For any entity to profit, one must take in more than they provide. Every patient had a value, and they chose not to give Henrietta blood, simply because she was becoming a liability rather than a medical research asset. By the time of her death, Hopkins saw her as puzzle piece to science, not a human being. Skloot (2010) notes, “Not long after Henrietta’s death, planning began for a Hela factory – a massive operation that would grow to produce trillions of HeLa cells each week. It was built for one reason: to help stop polio” (p. 93). This is the profit that Hopkins strives to make from its patients. The free healthcare was by no means created to be on a moral high ground; instead it was created to excel medical research. HeLa has been used to support a multi-trillion dollar health industry, and Henrietta’s family has not profited in the slightest sense. Years after Henrietta’s death, the creation of a polio vaccine, and various medical advancements, her family is still suffering from conditions that are easily fixable. While conversing amongst the Lacks, Rebecca (2010) notices, “Day hadn’t left the house in nearly a week because of a nosebleed that wouldn’t stop. Now he stood in the doorway in faded jean, a flannel shirt, and blue plastic flip-flops, even though it was January. He was thin and frail, barely able to hold himself upright
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