Handle with Care
Willow O'Keefe is born with osteogenesis imperfecta, or brittle bone disease, which means she will suffer hundreds of broken bones as she grows, and a lifetime of pain. As the family struggles to cover medical expenses, her mother, Charlotte, decides to file a wrongful birth lawsuit against her obstetrician for the compensation which might ensure a lifetime of care for Willow. But it means that Charlotte has to say in a court of law that she would have terminated the pregnancy if she had known about the disability in advance. And the obstetrician she's suing isn't just her physician - she's her best friend. Handle with Care is an absorbing narrative which also questions the basis of medical ethics and of personal morality. What rights do parents or doctors have to terminate a life? How disabled is too disabled? As a parent, how far would you go to save someone you love?
Derek writes: I'm a huge fan of Jodi Picoult but I have to confess that I wasn't sure I had the strength for Handle With Care. We all know that Miss Picoult writes about families, relationships and love and frequently places the reader in the position where you must make a moral judgment - which is just as likely to be swept away by Miss Picoult in the next chapter. Handle With Care is the story of Willow O'Keefe, a baby born with osteogenesis imperfecta or brittle bone disease. The description of Willow's birth in the prologue is as harrowing a piece of writing as I've ever read. Picoult drags at your heart-strings with her description of this tiny baby, already with broken ribs and long-bone fractures being torn from her mother's body. Before Willow is five she's had over 100 breaks - some minor but many sufficiently serious to leave her in casts for months at a time. On a family holiday to Disneyworld, she trips, breaks both femurs and is treated by the local hospital. The Florida emergency room doctors misdiagnose the many old fractures they see on the X rays as child abuse, the police are called, and Willow's parents, Charlotte and Sean are taken away for questioning. With this drama behind them the family returns home with Sean bubbling over with anger at the way they were treated. A personal injury lawyer advises the family against any legal action but suggests a case could be made for 'wrongful birth' - Charlotte's obstetrician should have diagnosed the OI and given Charlotte the opportunity to terminate the pregnancy. Charlotte, burdened under the injustice of the health insurance provider, the medical bills and costs of raising a special needs child decides that this is an appropriate course of action and instructs the lawyers - the only problem being that Piper, the OB, is Charlotte's best friend in the whole world. So we embark upon the emotional journey that Jodi Picoult writes so well. In providing quality of life for Willow Charlotte must lose her best friend and potentially destroy her family.