Breast cancer in the 1970s was almost barbaric in terms of treatment and compounded by the treatment of women’s health by the medical community. First Lady Betty Ford was diagnosed in 1974 and was instrumental in bringing awareness to breast cancer. Radical mastectomy was the default treatment of breast cancer and women were given very few options or information about treatment. In many cases, women were in surgery for a biopsy and if it was positive, a complete mastectomy was performed at the same time.
This book details cases and treatments where women were left out of this process. Many women were given radical mastectomy based on an inadequate biopsy. Options of lumpectomy or even performing a biopsy prior to radical surgical intervention was not an option. Although this book focuses on breast cancer treatment, it really is all about patient rights with respect to treatment. Informed consent, in all its application in research and in medicine wasn’t codified until around 1980.
(I actually enjoyed a bit of research on this topic. Feel free to spend a brief nerd moment on this subject:
Murray P. The History of Informed Consent The Iowa Orthopaedic Journal. 1990 Jan;10:104-109.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Ethics Committee Opinion #439 )
Now for some library science:
This particular book was written for a lay audience. For the time period, it was an excellent choice and probably could have stayed on the shelf into the mid to late 1980s without much of a problem. For this century, this book could have a place in a medical ethics collection. For a modern public library, this is a dinosaur of a book. Current issues of privacy and other medical ethics related topics are definitely collection worthy, but this isn’t that book. Medical ethics and informed consent are likely to be front and center as topics worthy of discussion as we deal with issues related to COVID-19 and access to health care.
As always, wash your hands, wear a mask and stay safe everyone.