Her family was never informed about what had been accomplished with the use of her cells. The Lacks family has not received anything from the cell line to this day, although their mother’s cells have been bought and sold by many. This bestseller tells the stories of HeLa and traces the history of the cell while highlighting the ethical and legal issues of the research. Henrietta’s name is associated with HeLa cells after a doctor took her cells without her knowing (the name derives from the first two letters of her first and last names). It is told that George Gey, a cancer researcher at Hopkins was longing to study cancer cells however, the method failed because the cells were studied outside of the body and died.
In recounting Henrietta Lacks’ history, Rebecca Skloot in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, does not shy away from moral complexities such as informed consent and ethics. She uses narratives from Henrietta’s life to show how ethical wrongdoings of the hospital affected not only Henrietta’s existence, but her family’s. Text on the front and inside cover of Skloot’s book conveys this exact message, “Doctors took her cells without asking… Henrietta’s family did not learn of her ‘immortality’ until more than 20 years after her death, when scientists investigating HeLa began using her husband and children in research without informed consent. ” Throughout her book, Skloot skillfully analyses a real story of medical ethics by pointing out ironic situations and conveying her argument by an equal amount of
I unfortunately had never heard of Henrietta Lack prior to reading this book and that worries me. I cant believe I had never heard about Henrietta Lacks or the HeLa cells, when she has such an important role in our modern medicine and vaccines. Henrietta is one of the main reasons we ha... ... middle of paper ... ...et the negative feedback from it. In my opinion they just didn’t want to deal with people knowing what they truly had done and didn’t want people to get emotional to the fact that those cells are from a real person and there is evidence of it. As I looked up recent articles about the HeLa cells I find that her cells still exist today and are being used for genome sequencing (Nature.com).
They were used for major breakthroughs in science, for example the developing of the polio vaccine. The HeLa-cells caused a revolution in the scientific world, while Henrietta Lacks, who died Octob... ... middle of paper ... ...and the great scientific achievements that followed were very interesting to me and very well written by Rebecca Skloot. But what made it all so real for me, was the personal story of Henrietta and her family. The frustration of the family and the lack of information that was given by the scientists really made me angry. These people suffered from so much injustice, why did no one made a small effort to explain it to them all?
Henrietta lacks was sentenced to death with that cancer, yet her cancer had cells were found to be immortal. Great profits made from this without her ever knowing. Doctors found it wasnt worth telling her since at that time there wasn't any obligations or laws specifying about taking DNA without consent. While she thought she wasn't being cured she was actually just being used, although created a breakthrough in science which changed it forever. After dying her family started understanding what cells were and started to see how the doctors and companies took advantage of her.
For the scientific community, endless cell life was huge, but it would mean nothing to her family until 1973 when they first learned that Henrietta’s cells were still alive. This new information and unfamiliarity of scientific jargon about Henrietta was not easily understood by the Lacks, and it took quite some time for someone to actually sit down with the family and explain to them that their mother was not alive and being tested on, but instead her cells were. Even when researchers or reporters did try to talk to her family, many of them expressed how they were sorry for their mothers lack of recognition or for the difficulties the Lacks had to face, yet still wanted information for their own gain. This can be seen as similar to the middle class mindset of trying to identify themselves and their research as better than truly they are while also differentiating themselves from the individuals below who were involved in the exploitation of Henrietta’s cells. The lack of understanding incorporated with an absence of explanation perfectly exemplifies the concept of human beings as abstractions in light of race.
If our mother so important to science, why can’t we get health insurance?” (pg.168). Someone who disagrees with this standpoint may argue that scientists had been trying for years to develop the perfect culture medium and had a much more hands on experience with the cells (pg.35), therefore, they should be receiving the earnings from any outcomes the HeLa cells may produce. While the scientists were in fact the brains behind the scientific advances, the family should be acknowledged on behalf of Henrietta Lacks. These successes in science would not have been possible without the origin of the cells: Henrietta Lacks. For some of the family, the primary focus was not even the profit.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. New York: Random House, 2010. The Scientist. Retrieved November 5, 2013 from http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/36098/title/Debating-Bioethics-Openly/. United States.
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