Sunday, December 15, 2013

For the Good of Mankind? - Book Review

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For the Good of Mankind by Vicki Oransky Wittenstein is a very interesting book that would be perfect for your curious teen. The book presents in an age-appropriate format "the shameful history of human medical experimentation."

While we have certainly benefited from medical experimentation, oftentimes it has come at the expense of unwilling human guinea pigs. From orphans to black slaves to pregnant women and people in third-world countries, scientists and doctors have experimented on them all throughout history. Even when sanctions were put into place to ensure that humans were giving their consent to be part of medical experiments, many medical groups found ways around those sanctions to get what they wanted.

The book even mentions Henrietta Lacks (about whom the awesome book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks was written), a poor black woman whose cancerous cervical cells were taken and experimented on without Henrietta or her family's consent or knowledge. Those cells are still in use for experimentation and were even used in the development of the polio vaccine. But Henrietta and her family were not compensated for the use of Henrietta's cells.

What is really scary is the state of medical experimentation today. With so many pharmaceutical companies competing to make the next big drug for profit and with so many doctors receiving compensation for recruiting volunteers, it can often be difficult to know if you're volunteering for a drug trial with all the facts. People today are still becoming very ill and even dying because of shifty drug trials.

This book really gets kids thinking about what is and is not acceptable when it comes to testing new drugs and medical procedures on human beings. The back of the book includes discussion questions for kids to answer on their own, with friends, or in a classroom group setting.

I'm not sure if this is the kind of book that kids would read at home or read in a classroom. It's for grades 6-12 and for kids ages 11-18. Some of the content in the book might be a little too gruesome for kids at the younger end of that age range. (I was questioning my decision to read this book while eating lunch.) I feel that it's best for ages 14-18 and kids who have an interest in science and medicine.

For the Good of Mankind? is published by Twenty-First Century Books and is available to purchase now. I received a free review copy for my honest review.

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