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In Rebecca Skloot's The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks

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In Rebecca Skloot’s novel The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, the author investigates the origin of a line of “immortal cells” used for research on various diseases. The cells were immortal in the sense that they continued to multiply long after the person from whom they came passed away. This quality made them priceless in the field of medical research. The cells were called HeLa, after the person from whom the cells were initially harvested-Henrietta Lacks. As Rebecca learns more about Henrietta and her family, certain injustices in the field of public health are made apparent.
Public health is a vast field that encompasses many issues. Generally speaking, it deals with the safety and protection of people in a society as well as education
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Doctors often would not inform their patients of everything they were doing to them and they did most things without a patient’s consent. In the book, Henrietta was not aware of many of the things the doctors were doing to her. They took samples of her tumor without her knowledge. The treatments that were given to her had negative side effects that she was not made aware of. The doctors’ and researchers’ actions had similar effects on Henrietta’s family. The family was never aware that her cells were being used in laboratories or that researchers were making millions of dollars off of them. Even when the Lackses were made aware of the research being conducted on the cells, it caused the family a great deal of confusion and distress. When they finally found out about the HeLa cells, it was because a doctor wanted to take their blood to test for genetic markers. The doctors did not explain this to the poorly educated Lackses, who thought they were being tested for cancer. This miscommunication caused Henrietta’s family to panic, for they thought they were going to die just like Henrietta. On the other hand, on the national level, HeLa cells served as a platform for research about many diseases, including cancer and polio. The cells progressed the scientific research on genetics and diseases further than ever thought…show more content…
They solved many issues that dealt with patient-doctor confidentiality, which was a huge problem at the time. They implemented laws and regulations to give the patient more control over their healthcare. They began treating their patients as human beings instead of experiments. However, not everything they did was good. I thought that it was sad that HeLa cells gave so much to everyone else, yet the Lackses did not reap any benefits that came from HeLa cells. Health Professionals were making millions of dollars by selling HeLa cells, yet the family of the person who contributed those cells could not even afford medical insurance. Any of the doctors or researchers could have easily set up a fund for Henrietta’s family given all that Henrietta’s cells did for them and the field of medical research in general. The health professionals took advantage of the fact that the Lackses lacked higher education and an understanding of what was happening to Henrietta’s cells. If the family had knowledge of the profits the researchers were making, they could have fought for rights to portions of them and used them to better their
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