Why Is Henrietta Lacks Unethical

Topics: HeLa, Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot Pages: 5 (1232 words) Published: November 30, 2016

Henrietta Lacks has become a well-known name in the science field today, but it wasn’t always like that. Before she was only known as HeLa, the first cells that could be cultured and “reproduced indefinitely,” the first line of immortal human cells (Epstein). Her cells have helped millions and have been used for countless experiments and tests, yet she herself wasn’t fully acknowledged until Rebecca Skloot wrote the book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and her family was not informed that their mother’s cells were still alive until 1973, twenty two years after her death (Skloot). Henrietta’s case is only one of hundreds of cases where their doctors unethically treat the patients and their families.
In 1951 Henrietta Lacks went to John Hopkins Hospital because she felt she had a “knot on her womb” (Skloot). Her doctor did a checkup and found cancer on her cervix and she was informed to come again for treatment. On the day of her treatment, while she was unconscious because of anesthesia her doctor cut out “two dime-sized” pieces of tissues, one from her healthy cervical tissue and one from her tumor before he began the treat (Skloot). Henrietta then spent the next two days there to recover and during that time doctors came and went, constantly checking on her “inside and out,” but never...

Well there are a great number of reasons and the book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, mentions if not all of the reasons than the most important ones. The “largest public health initiative” HeLa helped with was the development of the polio vaccine (Sharpe). Henrietta’s tumor cells were “unusually susceptible” to the poliovirus and helped to confirm the Salk vaccine to be effective and lifesaving (Sharpe). Soon after that many saw HeLa as a “work horse” because it was healthy and strong, it was inexpensive, and it grew faster than any normal cell...
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