Trickle-Down Health Care?

The actress Angelina Jolie recently revealed she’d had a double mastectomy after genetic testing revealed the BRCA1 gene linked to breast cancer. Now that the long series of procedures is done, Jolie is speaking out in order to demystify the issues around breast cancer testing and preventive treatments.

Jolie writes, “[My children and I] often speak of ‘Mommy’s mommy,’ and I find myself trying to explain the illness that took her away from us. They have asked if the same could happen to me…. [Since the procedure], my chances of developing breast cancer have dropped from 87 percent to under 5 percent. I can tell my children that they don’t need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer.”

The overwhelming reaction from the public has been positive and supportive, even warm. “Your mother would be proud of you,” one commenter wrote. Breast cancer survivors and others have applauded Jolie’s candor, her courage in tackling the issue head-on, and her thoughtfulness in discerning the best way forward for herself, in consultation with her doctor.

Jolie’s story has highlighted just how vulnerable we are to illness—all of us. Wealth and status do not protect us from the limitations of our human bodies, and health can be a fickle friend to us all.

What we’re not talking about enough is this: the genetic testing and treatment Jolie undertook are only available to a relatively small number of people with the means to afford it...

Read the rest at the Political Theology blog.