Mount Alvernia High School, Newton, Massachusetts
Kellie  Bent 

A History of Children’s Hospital, Boston

The Impact of Moral and Medical Dilemmas on the Family Unit in Jodi Picoult’s Novels

Jodi  Picoult
The establishment of Children’s Hospital Boston in the late nineteenth century at its first location in the South End of Boston, led to great medical advances, such as the first effective treatment for childhood leukemia by Dr. Sidney Farber and major surgical innovations by Dr. William E. Ladd and his colleagues. This hospital for children profited from the scientific expertise of knowledgeable doctors who worked at Children’s, as well as the generosity of Boston philanthropists with high social status. Due to the generosity of philanthropists like Francis Hunnewell, the hospital was able to expand physically, which later led to advancements in the pediatric medical field. The scientific expertise from researchers and physicians including Mr. Michael Farley, Martha Eliott, and John Enders led the hospital to major medical innovations. Children’s Hospital Boston’s medical advancements included treatments for sickle cell anemia, partial liver transplants from parents to children,along with double lung transplants for patients suffering from cystic fibrosis.

Often taking place in settings very similar to Children’s Hospital, Jodi Picoult’s novels focus on young characters as they cope with severe physical impairments and neurological disorders. In this way, Picoult examines how the families of her protagonists face their underlying issues as individuals and as a collective unit. In her novel Handle with Care, for instance, the O’Keefe family comes face to face with a complex moral dilemma when Charlotte chooses to sue her best friend, Piper, for wrongful birth, a medical malpractice claim carried by the parents of a child with defects at birth arguing that the physician denied them the right to terminate the pregnancy by withholding information from them. Charlotte makes this decision behind her husband’s back because she believes it is the key to guaranteeing her daughter, Willow, an easier life. Though Charlotte is only trying to protect her, she actually isolates Willow from a healthy social life. Moreover, the lawsuit brings to light the O’Keefes’ underlying marital problems, as well as their rampant need to control their daughter, all of which threatens to tear apart the family unit.

Major Works Consulted:

Archives Program of Children’s Hospital Boston. Images of America: Children’s Hospital Boston. San Francisco: Arcadia, 2005.
Archives of Children’s Hospital Boston. “The CHB History Trail” 2007.
Picoult, Jodi. Handle With Care. New York: Washington Square, 2009.
--. House Rules. New York: Washington Square, 2010.
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