Like many symbols within the book, the research university and hospital of Johns Hopkins is a double-edged sword. Founded specifically to help the poor and minorities, it emblemizes cutting-edge medical advances and high quality of care. On the other hand, in the 1950s Johns Hopkins had segregated wards, and subscribed to practices that were generally racist, sexist, and classist. Henrietta’s doctors did not keep her informed about her condition, nor did they tell either her or her family that they were taking the tissue samples that would eventually become HeLa. Indeed, for the Lackses, Johns Hopkins represents a criminally negligent institution that actively attempted to keep them in the dark about profits made off of Henrietta’s cells. Rebecca comments upon both the good and the bad parts of Hopkins, ensuring that readers understand its complex and troubling legacy.
Johns Hopkins Quotes in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
For Henrietta, walking into Hopkins was like entering a foreign country where she didn’t speak the language…she’d never heard the words cervix or biopsy. She didn’t read or write much, and she hadn’t studied science in school. She, like most black patients, only went to Hopkins when she thought she had no choice.