Henrietta Lacks Informed Consent

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One of the most important concepts in the medical field nowadays is informed consent. Unfortunately, a few years ago this was not the case. The lack of importance given to informed consent can clearly be seen in the novel The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. The novel that tells the story of an African American woman with cancer (Henrietta Lacks) who doctors and researchers took samples of cells (HeLa cells) in her body (without obtaining informed consent from her or her family) to conduct research studies. Chester Southam was a well- respected cancer researcher and chief of virology at Sloan- Kettering Institute for Cancer Research. Concerned that Henrietta’s cancer cells could infect the scientists that worked with …show more content…

However, the problem with his experiments was that they were conducted without obtaining informed consent from the participants. The patients did not know that Southam was injecting them with cancer cells to see how their bodies would react and had no interest in letting the patients know exactly what he was doing. “The deception was for [Southam’s] benefit- he was withholding information because patients might have refused to participate in the study if they’d known what he was injecting” (Skloot, p. 130). It is morally and ethically wrong to inject human beings with an illness that could eventually cause their death. For such reason, Southam soon was meet with opposition by others in the medical field. Three doctors refused to help Southam continue his experiments because of the unethical way in which the studies were being performed. Eventually, Southam’s unethical experiments were exposed and his license was suspended for a year. The researcher then became president of American Association for Cancer Research. However, because of the fact that Southam’s unethical practice had been exposed The National Institutes of Health (NIH) realized that few of the researchers they funded used no informed consent. So it was then that the NIH decided that any research that was to be funded had to be examined by a separate board to ensure informed consent was provided to the patients who participated in the

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