Critical Judgment – by Michael Palmer (1996)

Author Michael Palmer was himself an emergency room doctor, before switching to a writing career. He wrote fiction based around what he knew best: medicine and hospitals. “Critical Judgment” is Mr. Palmer’s seventh novel. In it, Dr. Abby Dolan has just started her new job at a small California hospital north of San Francisco. At first she is nervous about the amount of responsibility she has been given in the emergency department. But before long, the nervousness is replaced by a concern about the high number of patients that have been showing up with unexplained symptoms: blinding headaches, confusion, skin ailments, and personality changes.

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The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks – by Rebecca Skloot (2010)

The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks

When I read this book years ago, it seemed too strange to believe. As I re-read it, it had the same effect. A poor black woman living in rural Virginia named Henrietta Lacks was diagnosed with cervical cancer. She went to Johns Hopkins hospital, which was one of the few hospitals in those days that would care for black patients. Instead of doing a hysterectomy to remove the entire tumor, the doctor gave her an internal radium treatment. Although her condition temporarily improved, the cancer spread to the rest of her body.  Henrietta died in October of 1951, leaving behind five children, the youngest one a baby.

While treating her, the doctor had saved a sample of her tumor, which he sent to his cancer research lab. All the tissue samples from other patients had died in his lab within days, but Henrietta’s cells divided and multiplied and continued to live. Eventually there was so much tissue that the doctor shared it with other ┬álabs that wanted a sample. The samples ended up all over the world, and they are still being used by medical researchers today.

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