Ever since I finished The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, my head has been full of thoughts and questions. I was fascinated by the story and shamed by the disparate treatment of people in medicine. Thursday I headed down to the Clendening Library at Kansas University Medical Center in hopes of resolving some of my angst. Dr. Terry Rosell hosted the Midrash and Meal at the university’s library of Medical History. Our discussion of the book took place surrounded by medical implements dating back to early Egypt BCE. The tools looked dated; some looked barbaric; all told hauntingly fascinating stories of human procedures. It served as a fascinating and thought-provoking venue for the discussion of the ethical, racial, and medical problems the story of Henrietta produced.
Our discussion was everything I had hoped a Midrash and Meal would entail. Ethicists, doctors and seminary alumni/ae gathered to discuss the book and hear facts about inequities in our American healthcare system. The discussion was lively at times, our group spanned profession, age, gender, and ethnicity. We did not solve the problems of American healthcare. We did not answer the why questions I had regarding inequities in our medical system. Yet, with all the questions left unanswered, there was one nagging question Terry proposed, and it continues to echo in my soul. What is your church doing about these things??
We closed our day with a tour of the library. We saw historic medical paraphernalia and texts. We heard stories of medicine of days gone by. I left with my mind spinning as fast as when I pulled into the parking garage. Terry’s question lingers: What will I do? How will I lead my congregation into action? The inability to answer the hard questions cannot lull me into inactivity. Now my mind is spinning toward action: What will we do?