The Unethical Approach to Immortality: the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

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Clint Stoeck
Professor Kelly
History 1302
19 October 2012
HeLa: The Unethical Approach to Immortality
Henrietta Lacks is, one of the greatest contributors medical science and research in the past century. Albeit, she never knew of her contribution. In fact, it took twenty years for her family to be informed about the extensive number of cells that had been produced, and that would continue to be produced, to further studies in the best medical interest of mankind. The ethics of this situation are hardly questionable and this is what “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot discusses. The blatant use of Henrietta Lacks’ tissue without her consent, while it was a huge benefit to the medical field and mankind, was highly unethical and the lack of consent from her and her family have led to the questioning of the moral standards of the medical field. We see Henrietta Lacks and her family as an example of the apathy that the medical field exhibits during this time towards underprivileged people and the lasting effects that it can have on society.

The twentieth century was a rather confusing time for the medical field. We were always advancing and consistently on the verge of new technological capabilities. The “medical revolution” that transpired during the twentieth century began to develop some unintended side effects though. Ethics began to take a back seat to the advancement of medical research and Henrietta Lacks fell victim to these unethical practices. When she discovered “her biopsy results from the pathology lab: Epidermoid carcinoma of the cervix, Stage I” , she had the cancer removed. Henrietta was able to continue her life without a problem after the removal and thus continued her life as it was, previously to the cancer. She did not know that the cancer had essentially been harvested, not fully removed, and used to produce the largest supply of cells in existence.

After Henrietta Lacks’ death, the use of her...
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