Reflection on The Immortal Life of of Henrietta Lacks
The quote on the cover engaged my attention: "Doctors took her cells without asking. Those cells never died. They launched a medical revolution and a multimillion-dollar industry. More than twenty years later, her children found out. Their lives would never be the same", I was wondering how a person’s cells could create a multimillion-dollar industry and why none of Lacks’ family know about it until twenty years later. After reading this book by Rebecca Skloot, I was fascinated on so many levels, the ethical issues appear in the book let me see the other side of medical research that I have never seen before.
After Henrietta Lacks died, a doctor in John Hopkins Hospital took her cervical cancer cells and create an immortal cell line without her knowledge. Many researchers used African American’s organ in medical research before the 1970’s without their agreements since they do not have equal rights as white people. Today, these cells are known as HeLa cells, they are one of the most commonly used human cell lines. HeLa cells have been used for research into cancer, AIDS, the effects of radiation and toxic substances, gene mapping, and many other scientific pursuits. I believe that most of us have in one way or another benefitted from the HeLa cells. However, the Lacks’ gained no benefits from their mother’s cells, her youngest daughter, Deborah, told Skloot, “Truth be told, I can’t get mad at science, because it help people live, and I’d be a mess without it. I’m a walking drugstore! But I won’t lie, I would like some health insurance so I don’t got to pay all that money every month for drugs my mother cells probably helped make.” It is highly ironic that the family of the woman who devoted so much to medical research cannot even afford health insurance. I am unable to understand the mindset and logic of the doctors and researchers in the 1950’s. Skloot presents these issues of injustice and...
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