If you read one book on medical ethics this year, you might try Rebecca Skloot's, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (2010).
Henrietta Lacks was the unwitting donor of cervical cancer tissue which in 1951 became immortalized as HeLa, reproduced trillions of times around the planet. Her tissue has been used to fight polio, TB, cancer, and is instrumental in much medical testing still today. Billions of dollars in profits have been made by drug and other medical companies using her reproduced cells. Yet Lacks, who died shortly after her tissue was taken, never earned a dime and her family languished without medical insurance.
You may think one's own body is the most sacred of all possessions, which you own by right. But you'd be wrong. American courts have held that patients have no right to tissue (living cells) taken from you in a medical procedure. All such tissue is considered "waste" material, despite the fact that some patients' tissues are extremely valuable to researchers and for-profit companies.
Disclosure rules have improved, but it's still the law of the jungle when it comes to owning your own body parts. The book catalogs not just Lacks' personal story but several other cases of egregious ethical misconduct in the name of science.
There are plenty of examples in this book of kind-hearted doctors and philanthropists—such as at Johns Hopkins University, established to help the indigent of all races get medical care. Yet there were unintended consequences of that benevolence in that it led researchers to treat patients not as individuals with rights, but special cases.
Lacks grew up on a tobacco farm in far south Virginia and moved to Baltimore when her husband got a job at a steel mill. Her story of back-breaking work and uplifting spirit despite her medical trials and tribulations makes this a compelling summer read. Most of the book deals with the slow and painful uncovering by Lacks' children of the unknown story of their mother's cell lines and their role in medical breakthroughs.
[Bottom photo: HeLa cancer cell dividing. Source: http://rense.com/general89/immot.htm]