Cells taken from a young African American woman in 1951 helped scientists cure polio. Cells from the same woman contributed to scientific advantages in cancer, gene mapping, and even the atom bomb. The mother of five did not life to know her cells had such importance. She never knew, in fact, that they were being harvested. Today’s medical advances are based on practices that people now consider unethical, whereas back when Henrietta live, they did not even think twice about ethics. Henrietta Lacks did not know the cells taken from her could possibly be used to develop a multimillion-dollar medical industry. In an even crueler twist of fate, her descendants lived in poverty without access to affordable health care. The book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, tells the story of a women, Henrietta Lacks, and her family. Ms. Lacks was treated for cervical cancer at John’s Hopkins Hospital in 1951. Her malignant cervical cells were harvested and distributed to become the first “immortal” cell line widely used for scientific research, including their use in the development of the polio vaccine. The story tells what happened after Ms. Lacks’ death to her family, a poor African American family living in Maryland. A family who, today, would be considered poor. The story brings up key ethical issues of biomedical research, which were evolving during that era (Skloot, Rebecca). Henrietta Lacks died of an aggressive cervical cancer that invaded virtually her entire body in 1951. A common practice at the time, samples of cancer cells were taken for study. Some cells were taken by a researcher who was attempting to develop immortal cell lines for scientific purposes. In the 1950’s, the practice of taking routine tissue samples without consent from patients was not uncommon, and anonymising the source wasn’t a main concern. HeLa cells and the concerns that surrounded them touched on several issues in medicine. One was the...
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