Ethics in Henrietta Lacks

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The book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is about the pursuance of a social good by science, but at the expense of a family’s very own social good. Henrietta Lacks was a member of this African American family, and it was the HeLa cells that were taken from Henrietta Lacks that proved to be an improvement in science, more specifically and importantly, medical treatment of patients with cancer. These cells have also generated a great amount of money for the main company that sells them for use by other medical centers and companies. The controversial question that this book brings to the reader’s mind is whether an improvement like this in science is worth the hardship of a family that is completely oblivious to how they are being taken advantage of.

This book follows the life of Henrietta Lacks and her family right before and after her death through the eyes of a curious science student/reporter. We are told about her lifestyle, giving us background on how she has lived her life leading up to her death. It is revealed that she has been forced to visit the doctor many times due to various diseases and infections obtained from her non-loyal husband Day. After she gives birth to her last child, she begins to feel serious pains in the lower abdominal area of her body, and goes to Johns Hopkins University Hospital for a visit as a last resort to identifying what is wrong with her and helping her recover. The reason for this being last resort rather than a priority in her decision-making for where to get treatment is because of two reasons: money and the color of her skin. It would cost much more to receive treatment at a hospital such as Johns Hopkins, and most hospitals generally did not treat black people as they treated white people. So it is obvious as to why this choice was a last resort. She did indeed receive treatment because, luckily for her, this was one of the few hospitals that actually treated black people like white people. She was not...
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