How Ancestral Trauma Informs Patients’ Health Decision Making


This article considers intergenerational trauma by drawing on the experience of a 37-year-old Black woman whose great-grandfather died as a result of involuntary involvement in the US Public Health Service Syphilis Study at Tuskegee. Although she never met her great-grandfather, the abuse, exploitation, and human rights violations he suffered at the hands of the US government profoundly influenced her health experiences. This article contextualizes her experiences in light of past medical abuse and microethics.




Copyright 2021 AMA Journal of Ethics. Recommended citation: Sacks, Tina K., Katie Savin, and Quenette L. Walton. "How Ancestral Trauma Informs Patients’ Health Decision Making." AMA Journal of Ethics 23, no. 2 (2021): 183-188. DOI: 10.1001/amajethics.2021.183. URL: Reproduced in accordance with the original publisher’s licensing terms and with permission from the author(s).