I was lying in one of those pools that the tide, wind and water make, and it would have been pleasant except for the fact that I had been on a night flight to New Zealand to spend Christmas with my parents. It had been years since I’d been back for the holidays, and I was thrilled with my husband and children’s thoughtful gift.
I always thought that flying at night was smart scheduling. Who wanted to fly for thirteen hours in the daytime with hundreds of passengers running to restrooms, if like me they had one cup bladders and a three cup coffee habit? I chuckled, remembering how I had explained acid rain to the kids. I had pointed to white jet trails in the sky and had explained that all those peeing passengers made those trails.
I was out of my reminiscing mind! But now I was lying in a desert island pool. I could feel the burn of a Southern Hemisphere sun on my pale skin. I pulled up on my elbows and rolled out of the pool.
Boom! A coconut fell at my feet. But there were no palm trees. All I saw was a spandex blue sky, sand and sea. Boom! A fat dictionary fell from nowhere. Boom! Again something fell this time I caught it. It was a mask. If it had been a mask and a snorkel that would have made sense, but it was the ancient mask of Agamemnon. Its eyeholes gazed blankly at me out of a face of antique gold.
The dictionary was also old and worn. I laughed. It had been years since I had thumbed through a dictionary. These days I simply googled things on my trusty iPad. The dictionary seemed to demand to be opened so I did. Immediately it flopped wetly to the P's. The first word I saw was, 'Put'. But instead of a meaning beside it there were asterisks, exclamation marks and capital letters spelling; "PUT IT ON!"
Put on the coconut? I wondered groggily. Immediately the dictionary pages riffled as if in a wind to N. "NO DUMMY!" worded the dictionary. Riffling again, this time to T where it spelled, "THE MASK!"
A strange feeling of recklessness seized me and I plucked Agamemnon from the sand and placed it on my face. There was a gurgling sucking sound as the mask suctioned there. My face had become golden! "Great!" I thought. I had become Midas! I wondered if the dictionary would turn to gold if I touched it. So I did touch the old worn thing. The pages whirred as if in a high wind and landed on the page where GOLD was spelled. But again instead of its meaning I saw, "JUST MY FUNNY JOKE! GET IT? I TURNED TO GOLD." I heard a weird wheezy laughter coming from the book's spine. "Oh very witty," I scowled.
Christmas visit or no Christmas visit, I wanted to be far away from here. I missed my beautiful kids and I wanted to feel my husband's reassuring hug. No sooner had I thought this than the pages riffled to COCONUT and beside this incongruous word, "HOLD ON TO THE COCONUT!"
I felt like I was being flung high into the air, jerked by an unseen hook on my collar. I remembered taking my daughter bungee jumping. That would have prepared me for this sensation, but I had refused to bungee on that occasion. I had told her weakly, "They write your weight in black marker on your arm for all to see. And I’d have to be honest about it. What if I went 'splat' because I insisted I’m 120 pounds when 155 is closer to the mark?"
I landed unsteadily. In front of me was a little brown-eyed boy staring at me. He was painfully thin and squatted barefoot with his little arms stretched out to receive the coconut. I gave it to him, and he accepted it gravely.
The dictionary flopped open to WISH....He had wished for a coconut, it spelled. I recognized the little boy's face. He had been featured on the cover of the in-flight magazine I had been reading before I landed here.
"Am I dreaming?" I whispered.
"Yes, in part," it replied after whirling to the Ys.
"Ah," it said riffling quickly to the As. “Agamemnon's mask on you makes the wishes come true.”
"Because," the book replied, "You wished that you could help that little boy."
"Is this real or happening in my imagination?"
"Just because you imagine something does not make it unreal," explained the old volume.
"And the coconut?"
"Ah!" The book seemed to nod. "The coconut was always just a coconut."
Writer Jenny Harp is a New Zealander grandmother who lives in the United States with her husband and loves God, life and family.
CRUMBS BY JENNY HARP
Inside our home, the Christmas lights twinkled; the tinsel glistened; the ornaments sparkled; and the Christmas tree silently awaited Santa’s arrival. I peered out our living room window and noticed that newly fallen snow had blanketed the neighborhood streets; the barren, frost-covered trees shivered like frail skeletons trembling in the blustery winds; and silent icicles hung from the shimmering housetop roofs.
The mercury had dipped well below freezing, so mother wrapped me in my heaviest coat; forced my hands into last year’s mittens; and covered my ears with my father’s furry ear muffs. When I stepped outside, I watched my warm breath mingle with the crisp, cold air as it stung my cheeks. The gentle snow crunched under my boots as we began the one-mile trek from our house to the downtown plaza where Santa was scheduled to arrive.
As I stood in the plaza with the other children, Christmas waved its magic wand over me. So when I looked up in the sky, I was certain that off in the distance I saw Rudolph, heard Santa’s sleigh bells jingling, and believed that Santa would arrive shortly. I glanced above me and discovered that I wasn’t hearing sleigh bells at all. Rather, I was hearing the pole-mounted Christmas bells swaying in the wind. I continued to wait, though, in the bone-crunching cold—the kind of cold that wrenches a child’s spirit—until I heard an unfamiliar sound approach the crowd of children.
It was a rhythmic wop-wop, wop-wop sound; then out of nowhere, a red helicopter emerged from the wintry sky and slowly descended toward us. The rotors beat the cold air into submission until it gently landed a few feet from me. In disbelief, I watched as Santa turned off the engine, grabbed his bag of toys, disembarked, and headed straight toward me and the other children shouting, “Ho, Ho, Ho! Merry Christmas boys and girls! Hope you’ve been good this year.”
For some reason, Santa’s unconventional arrival both shocked and disturbed me and ignited some fiery questions in my mind. So later when I approached Santa, my burning curiosity took on a life of its own as I blurted out, “Where’s your sleigh, Santa? Why didn’t you ride it into town?”
“Well, little lady…it’s at the North Pole being repaired.”
“What’s wrong with your sleigh?”
“Just some minor repairs…nothing for a little girl to worry about.”
“Who’s fixing it?”
“Well, the magical elves are, of course,” he curtly replied.
Then logic diluted my childhood naivety, and I quickly formulated some more serious questions: “But I thought elves made toys! Will they really be able to fix your sleigh in time? How will you deliver presents all over the world without it….and…and,” I stammered, “What about Rudolph and all the other reindeer?”
My innocent persistence rendered Santa speechless; he nervously cleared his throat and disapprovingly raised his right eyebrow—which was brown rather than white like his beard. In that instant, the Santa Claus illusion was gone forever.
I cried as I climbed off Santa’s lap, and my mother lovingly wrapped me in her arms; wiped away my tears; and said, “You’re gonna be okay, sweetie. You’re so smart, and I’m proud of you for discovering the truth.”
Then, mother got down on her knees, looked me straight in the eyes, and explained, “Santa Claus is a wonderful made up story like the storybooks you read in school. Even though the stories aren’t true, you like them any way, right?”
“Yes.” I sniffled back my tears.
“Well,” she continued, “Sometimes storybook writers make up stories to tell lessons or share something important. The story of Santa Claus is like that; it’s made up to tell children about the spirit of kindness and giving—that’s what’s important. Do you understand, sweetie?”
Her honesty comforted me as I began to acknowledge the nonexistence of Santa Claus. Her forthrightness allowed me to reconstruct a more mature reality in light of the new evidence I’d witnessed that day. In the end, the day’s events actually prepared me for adulthood, for my mother wisely taught me how to maintain a grip on reality independent of the stories I’d eventually hear and the disillusionments I’d experience as an adult.
Isaiah Washington was sound asleep in his bunk at the homeless shelter in downtown Memphis when Green Jeans shook him awake.
"Cajun Jim froze—he dead!"
Isaiah sat straight up. Green Jeans told him how Cop Doug, a policeman and friend of theirs, found Cajun's frozen body in the alley behind Albert's Restaurant an hour ago.
Isaiah couldn't believe what he was hearing. He had dinner with Cajun just last night. That is to say, they shared a big tub of left over red beans and rice from Albert's in the alley. Cajun wasn't really a Cajun, he just loved their food. At least he had his favorite food for a last meal. Isaiah rubbed the tears from his eyes.
Isaiah had tried to get Cajun to come to the shelter with him last night because he knew it was supposed to get down to 10 degrees, but Cajun refused.
"I've slept through colder nights!"
Cajun hated shelters. People tried to rob you there, and Cajun always had money. He had a fine talent. He would go down on Beale Street and tap dance for the tourists, and they would tip him. Restaurant owners would even pay him a little to dance in front of their businesses to draw customers.
Cajun would always share his money with Isaiah. Sometimes they would get cleaned up and go into a restaurant and actually pay for their food instead of getting leftovers at the back door. Cajun knew every restaurant owner in downtown Memphis, and they all loved him. They could eat for free from the back door of any restaurant they wanted to, and would always take some to their friends.
Isaiah went to the alley where the body of his best friend was found and began to pray. Dear Lord, what will I do without him? How will I get along on the streets? Cajun was a real smart gentleman and Isaiah was a mite slow. As he started to cry, Cop Doug walked up with an envelope in his hands...
"We found this among Cajun's personal items, has your name on it." Officer Doug said.
Isaiah took the offered envelope and pulled out a letter and some kind of document. He tried to read the words, but his skills in that area were limited. Doug gently took the papers from him and read the letter aloud:
"This is all for you, my dearest friend, for being my dinner buddy all these years. You know how I hated to eat alone. Just make sure there is always plenty of food for our friends."
Attached to the letter was a will, leaving all of Cajun's worldly goods to Isaiah, all of his worldly goods which turned out to be a small fortune.
"He left you a house on Peabody Street and five hundred thousand dollars!" Doug gasped.
Isaiah almost fainted. The century old homes on Peabody Street were mansions! How could this be? Cajun never talked much about anything personal except his faith in God. He was always saving souls. He was poor, just like the rest of them, wasn't he?
The funeral was held at the First Presbyterian Church where Cajun and Isaiah attended every Sunday. The Reverend gave Cajun a fine send off and said he was surely in heaven.
"He was a man of God."
Tables were lined with every kind of cuisine imaginable. Hundreds of people, from the wealthy to the poorest of the homeless, dined on food such as steak, ribs, fried chicken, and red beans and rice. They then sang hymns and celebrated the life of Cajun Jim.
As it turned out, James Peabody (aka Cajun Jim) came from a very old and well-to-do family in Memphis. No one seemed to know why he preferred living on the streets. Isaiah felt he was just led there by God to witness for Him.
Isaiah, Green Jeans, and four other friends moved into the old eighteen room house on Peabody, and went to work restoring it. They found several lawn mowers in the garage and started a lawn service. Before long they were mowing all the grass in the neighborhood. They hired more homeless people and soon had a thriving business.
A few months later, with Cop Doug's help, a new homeless shelter opened on Peabody Street. Now Isaiah lays out a smorgasbord of food everyday, and there is a gold plated sign on the door that simply reads: CAJUN'S MONEY.
Lynn Gipson is from Memphis, Tennessee, and writes stories, poems, and articles of a Christian or Spiritual Nature.
On October 4, 1957, a 30 year old black woman died from cervical cancer. Her name was Henrietta Lacks. Henrietta signed a consent form to operate but not to have her tissues removed. Unbeknownst to her family, Henrietta’s cells would live on to become famous, as well as to assist with many medical advances. The Lacks family would not discover this until 20 years later. Rebecca Skhoot’s book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks discusses the question of ethics involved in allegations that were made but never rectified. The main points discussed in Skloot’s book are the treatment of blacks in the 50s by doctors and hospitals, patient consent, the family’s lack of knowledge, and donor rights. The book leaves the reader to ponder if Henrietta and her family were treated ethically.
The first ethical point is the treatment of blacks in the 1950. Segregation was the law when Henrietta was a patient in John Hopkins Hospital. Black patients had almost no rights and were still considered unequal to whites. Doctors and researchers believed they had the authority make decisions concerning how their patients were treated medically. In the times in which Henrietta Lacks lived, consent for medical practices did not exist. Most of the Negro patients could not read or write. Most would not have known what they were agreeing to or signing, as far as that goes. The doctors did not seem to care as long as they got a signature. As stated by Kate Partynski from the University of San Diego, today donors believe they have a right to know how their tissues are being used. The Lacks family believes they should not only get royalties, but a voice in how Henrietta’s cells are used.
“ Like many doctors of his era, TeLinde often used patients from the public wards for research, usually without their knowledge” states Rebecca Skloot in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Many scientists believed that since patients were treated free in public wards, it was fair to use them as research subjects as a form of payment.” Whites had more money, so they could afford health care, whereas the blacks were poor. Researchers took advantage of that and used them as guinea pigs in whatever research they were conducting at that time as a form of payment for services rendered.
There have been many instances where studies were done on a person’s tissues or bodily fluids without the patient’s knowledge, but it was not made a matter of contention until the HELA cells became a controversial issue. “But first—though no one had told Henrietta that TeLinde was collecting samples or asked if she wanted to be a donor—Wherton picked up a sharp knife and shaved two dime-sized pieces of tissue from Henrietta’s cervix: one from her tumor, and one from her healthy cervical tissue nearby. Then he placed the samples in a glass dish,” Rebecca Skloot says of Henrietta’s unknown donorship.
She was not alone. In the years between 1932 and 1972, 300 black Tuskegee airmen were experimented on for a disease that knew nothing about, syphilis. The doctors had no intention of curing it. Approximately 200 died from these experiments.
Modern thought on informed consent regarding cell reproduction has changed since Henrietta’s time. Then, common people were constantly being utilized in experiments without their knowledge. Analysts were in the dark about microorganism operations—they never knew that in the future those cells would bring in millions of dollars, that in the future examiners could inspect DNA and increase knowledge about patients and their ancestors. The abuse was unintentional and the practice honorable according to guidelines in that time period.
George Guy, the researcher who cultivated the original microorganism, was committed to remedying cancer. He used some of his own tissue and that of his offspring. He never tried to make a profit from the cells nor from the medical equipment he invented that is still used today. Without money to support his research, Guy furnished his own workshop.
Removing cells from the sick was common in the 1950s. It is today as well, according to Ari Schulman in “What’s A Body Worth?”
But other experiments weren’t so benign. Another example of ethical questionability is the story of Henrietta’s third child, who was placed in a hospital for the insane. While a patient there, experiments were done without the family’s or patient’s permission. One such experiment was drilling holes into the skull, draining fluids and pumping air into the brain.
In reference to The Immortal life if Henrietta Lacks, McKie of “The Observer” states in an online article that now society is considering new health laws, people should take another look at the Lacks story. It is said that one of Mrs. Lacks’ sons asked, “If our Mother is so important to science, why can’t we get health insurance?”
Henrietta Lacks, a middle aged black women in the 50’s, died of cervical cancer while her daughter Deborah yearned to learn about the mother she never knew. Deborah was just a small child when Henrietta died, and all she had was a child’s memory of her mother. Deborah and author Rebecca Skloot take the reader on a heart wrenching journey to learn about Henrietta and her infamous HeLa cells.
Lisa Margonelli’s purpose in her review for the Sunday Book Review in the New York Times is to inform readers of Henretta Lacks and her family’s journey to find closure over the injustice done to the Lacks family in regard to lack of patents’ rights. She describes the way Henrietta and her family lived in poverty and after Henrietta died, the way her cells were used and how the family became informed of it. Margonelli describes how Skloot and Deborah traveled to Clover, VA to see the Lacks “homeplace.” She talk about Deborah’s hives and anxiety and her medical issues caused by family and lack of knowledge about what was done with her mother’s cells until approximately 20 years later when they were asked to give blood samples in hopes of finding more valuable cells. Even then, the Lack family believed they were being tested to see if anyone else in their family had cancer. Despite the good intention of the researchers, Henrietta’s family never profited from their mother’s contribution to medical science. While Deborah’s medical conditions weren’t treated because she had no insurance to defray the cost of expensive medicines, researchers eventually made billions on Henrietta’s cells.
Informed consent was not practiced until many years after Henrietta had died. If it had been, things may have turned out different for not only Henrietta, but many other patients as well.
Rebecca Skloot explains how it came about. The term informed consent first appeared in a court document in 1957, in a civil court ruling on the case of a patient named Martin Salgo, He went under anesthesia for what he thought was a routine procedure and woke up permantly paralyzed from the waist down. The doctor hadn’t told him the procedure carried any risks at all. The judge ruled against the doctor, saying, “A physician violates his duty to his patients and subjects himself to liability if he withholds any facts which are necessary to form the basis of an intelligent consent by the patient to the proposed treatment.” He wrote that there needed to be “full disclosure of fact necessary to an informed consent.”
The research populace has not hidden facts and has been forthcoming in regards to HeLa information. Society believed that researchers were omitting facts, but that wasn’t true. Researchers are happy the information is available and it’s being talked about.
This story seemed to have given a fresh spin on the topics it discusses causing substantial curiosity- maybe because topics of logical concepts are more yielding. While Skloot lets readers make up their own minds about the outcome, she makes the reader consider it in terms of widespread ethical implications. Its powerful suggestion is not only the wider genetic and social and ethical inquests, but the way her case was handled. Mrs. Lacks and her heirs should have been told what the physicians were doing, gotten their permission, and remunerated them in some way. If there are doubts, it is mostly concerning how things could have been done differently.
In regard to a tissue donor’s rights, ethically and financially, there were none whatsoever. Times have changed drastically since then. Today donors have a say in how their bodies are treated by medical and research personnel. Financially, no one profits from the research but the scientific genre, although medically, many polio patients as well as patients with other ailments profit from the research. No one has ever been compensated financially. Some feel the satisfaction of being instrumental in finding a cure for a baffling disease or virus is enough, but not all feel that way
Rebecca Skloot talks about the financial question of profiting from cell research: Moore was not awarded any of the profits, but the judge did agree with him on two counts: lack of informed consent, because Golde hadn’t disclosed his financial interests, and breach of fiduciary duty, meaning Golde had taken advantage of his position as doctor and violated patient trust. The court said researchers should disclose financial interests in patient tissues, though no law required it. It also pointed out the lack of regulation and patient protections in tissue research, and called on legislators to remedy the situation. But it said that ruling in Moore’s favor might “destroy the economic incentive to conduct important medical research,” and that giving patients property rights in their tissues might “hinder research by restricting access to the necessary raw materials,” creating a field where “with every cell sample a researcher purchases a ticket in a litigation lottery.”
In “Donors Retain No Rights to Donated Tissue” by Kristin E. Schleiter, JD, LLM, she describes autonomy as persons being able to make their own medical decisions as well as donating tissues for research and participating in clinical research. She goes on to explain the legal aspects of tissue donation. There are court applications filed for approximately 20 percent of human genes. Several court cases have been challenged. The purpose of this article is to inform the reader of the legal aspects of tissue donation and the patient’s rights concerning said tissues.
The answers to the questions were clearly answered in this article. In the past, researchers believed they retain the rights to do anything they wanted with a person’s tissues. It has never been established by law who owns the tissues. The AMA does not allow the use of tissue for commercial purposes without the patient’s knowledge. This article was written for any layperson wishing to gain knowledge concerning tissue donation and patient rights involving the tissues. It is a very informative on the subject of the process and rights of donating tissue for medical study. It addressed the pros and cons of donor rights when tissues are being taken for research. The questions that were asked in the introduction of this paper were clearly addressed, and the author was well informed.
In the era that Henrietta Lacks lived, the black population was poor and illiterate. Johns Hopkins unintentionally took advantage of Henrietta and her family. Henrietta did consent to surgery, but not to have her tissues analyzed. Henrietta’s family was kept in the dark for 20 years about her donation to science. They never received any compensation. The laws have changed somewhat in regard to tissue donation, but it is too late for Henrietta Lacks and her family.
Since then, The Henrietta Lacks Foundation has been established to assist the Lacks family’s financial situation with educational costs, medical and dental needs and emergency assistance. The Lacks family has eventually come to terms with the significance that the HELA cells have made to science and are proud that they have helped to save so many lives. The question of ethics in this case has never really been defined or satisfied to the family’s satisfaction. The family has made peace in their hearts about their mother’s contribution to science, but not about the ethics involved. The morals and ethics of doctors and researchers have changed somewhat now, but there is still a lot of controversy about donor rights and cell contribution.
copyright © 2013
Margonelli, Lisa. “Sunday Book Review”. New York Times.5 February 2010.1-4
McKie, Robin. “Henrietta Lacks Cells were priceless, but her family couldn’t afford a hospital.”
The Observer (Saturday 3 April 2010).Web
Partynski, Kate. “Tissue Ownership in the Modern Age: What Henrietta’s Story Can Teach Us.”
University of San Diego (n.d) 4 pgs. Web.
Schleiter, Kristin,JD, LLM. “Donor Retain No Rights to Donated Tissue.” Virtual Mentor Volume 11, Number8: 621-625 (August 2009).Web
Schulman, Ari. “What’s A Body Worth?” The New Atlantis, Number 35 Spring 2012. Pp.99- 115.Web
Skloot, Rebecca.The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House. New York.2011.Print
Skloot, Rebecca. FAQ . Web.www.rebecccaskloot.com
Teresa Robinson is a college student with a love of reading and writing.