Henrietta Lacks Ethical Issues Surrounding Hela Cells

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The medical field has made great steps in the last five decades, from preventing polio to mapping the human genome to discovering chemotherapy (Skloot par 4). All these medical breakthroughs are amazing, and they also have something in common; they are discoveries made possible because of a single woman and the cells of the cancer that killed her. In this essay, I will introduce you to Henrietta Lacks, discuss the issues of the lack of consent surrounding HeLa cells, and the lack of credit given to Henrietta Lacks for said cells. Henrietta Lacks is a woman who died in 1951 from a violent cervical cancer that grew and metastasized within nine months of her diagnosis (Grady par 6). During those nine months, Henrietta received treatment at Johns Hopkins Hospital, where doctors extracted …show more content…

Stump, Stump discusses the happenings of Henrietta’s death day, specifically the divulgence of HeLa cells to the world (pars 1-2). Stump notes that at the time, there was no breach in patient rights because laws concerning that didn’t even exist in that time. Stump goes on to draw attention to two concerns of HeLa cells. The attempt of one researcher to remove Henrietta Lacks’ name completely by attributing the HeLa cells to a fictitious woman named Helen Lane, as well as the violation of Henrietta Lacks’ right to informed consent (par 3). Which brings us to our first issue.
The issue of how the HeLa cell culture came to be is still a point of discussion. Without the consent of Henrietta, the cells never should have made it outside her body, much less into a lab, and yet they did anyway. And it is because of that breach of basic human rights and privacy that medical science has come as far as it has.
Henrietta’s name was purposefully removed from the context of HeLa cells by Dr. George Gey, the foremost researcher in the discovery of HeLa cells (Stump par

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