The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

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Anna Kwon
Period 2
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
With Henrietta Lacks’s cell’s, scientists were able to make vaccines, drugs etc. “Like guinea pigs and mice, Henrietta’s cells have become the standard laboratory workhorse” (4). Her cells have been on the moon, in nuclear bombs, and helped make the polio vaccine. What surprised me was that scientists didn’t even get permission from Henrietta or her family to use the cells, and yet, people have been getting richer and richer from them. While others are getting richer after using the cells of Henrietta Lacks, her family has not gotten a cent. Like Deborah (her daughter) said, “…if our mother cells done so much for medicine, how come her family can’t afford to see no doctor?”

When the author’s teacher, Defler, explained to their class a little about Henrietta, he explained that “HeLa cells were one of the most important things that happened to medicine in the last hundred years” (4). Although her cells have been used for many medical and scientific purposes and have greatly contributed to the knowledge known today, why did the teacher mention that “she was a black woman”?

Is that the reason why Henrietta’s family has not received any of the money made from the profits of Henrietta’s cells? Because she was black and her family is African American?
After all, the cells were taken without permission. Her family should receive some of the proceeds made using HeLa cells.
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