Banned Medical Books

Every year the Office of Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association celebrates Banned Book Week. This year, Banned Book Week runs September 25 − October 1.

Rutgers University Robert Wood Johnson Library of the Health Sciences has a great post on Banned Medical Books which includes a poster.

The Mutter Museum will have an exhibit of their collection of challenged and banned books during banned books week. If you live in or are visiting Philadelphia I am officially jealous!

Some recent examples of challenged and banned medical books are…

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Reason: A Tennessee mother of a high-school sophomore described the book as “pornographic” and wanted it removed from her child’s school reading list.

The biography of Henrietta Lacks tells the true story of a black woman whose cells were taken for research in 1951 (without her knowledge) while she was in a hospital with cervical cancer; ultimately leading to major medical breakthroughs in medicine including the polio vaccine.


Physician Suicide Letters Answered by Pamela Wible M.D.
Reason: No reason was provided. A physician who had bought copies for all of their residents was told by their executive director to not hand them out. Someone was so intent on preventing the distribution of the books that they stole the copies from the resident work area. You can read more about the specific incident here.


Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine by Murray Longmore, Ian Wilkinson, Andrew Baldwin, Elizabeth Wallin 
Reason: Medical schools have banned this book in the past because it made clinical studies too easy.

Sex education books or books that may provide sex education are prime targets for challenges. Some recent examples according the Office of Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association lists of frequently challenged books…

  1. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie

Reasons: anti-family, cultural insensitivity, drugs/alcohol/smoking, gambling, offensive language, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group, violence. Additional reasons: “depictions of bullying”

  1. It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris

Reasons: Nudity, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group. Additional reasons: “alleges it child pornography”

  1. I Am Jazz, by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings

Reasons: Inaccurate, homosexuality, sex education, religious viewpoint, and unsuited for age group.

  1. Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, by Susan Kuklin

Reasons: Anti-family, offensive language, homosexuality, sex education, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“wants to remove from collection to ward off complaints”).