The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks By Rebecca Skloot

1037 Words5 Pages

In the book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, the story of a impoverish African American woman is revealed in beautiful and amazing detail. The book consists of three main sections, wherein Rebecca Skloot describes the various aspects of Henrietta Lacks’ legacy. The three sections are life, death, and immortality. The purpose of the book was to expose the hidden story of the HeLa cells used in research across the country. This also exposes the ethical issues of what was basically a cell harvest on Henrietta Lacks without her proper understanding and consent. These ethical issues can further be explored and analyzed, which is the purpose of this paper, through modern day scientific ethics.
First of all, who was Henrietta Lacks and what …show more content…

Through this research scientists and doctors were able to make some of their greatest discoveries, namely the Polio vaccine. The amount of uses for these cells was enormous. Due to this the cells were readily reproduced and sent to labs far and wide. Some estimate that if someone could possibly take all of the HeLa cells and put them onto a scale they would weigh over 50 million metric tons. In the book they even talk about how there were enough cells produced to cover the entire earth in multiple layers of HeLa cells at one point. Her cells were numerous and the discoveries followed suit. Her cells helped learn more about cloning, gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, and so much more. Almost the entire pharmaceutical industry was built by HeLa cell experiments. Everything sounds so great until you learn that these cells were cultured and spread without Lacks’ proper consent, and neither her nor her family were ever compensated for Ms. Lacks’ contribution to the world. In fact, they were never even informed of this occurring until 25 years …show more content…

Nobody wants to say that the good of many is unimportant when it comes to what they want out of fear of sounding selfish. But let’s be honest. Is it really okay to completely violate someone’s right to their own body just to help science? From all the good that came from this violation of rights many are tempted to say yes. From a utilitarian point of view where weighing the costs and benefits of alternative course of actions leads to a decision that maximizes the general benefit to the community and minimizes the impact and drawbacks to whoever may be involved, it seems almost like it is acceptable to say that the scientists did nothing wrong. This is true in a way. Without HeLa cells we may never have found the vaccine to Polio, found ways to fight the flu, or made the myriad of discoveries thanks to these cells. While it is acceptable that they took her cells, it is unacceptable in the way that they did it. There is no reason that she should not have been informed. If anything, Henrietta Lacks should have been given the opportunity to know where parts of her body were being taken. At the very bare minimum she should have at least been compensated for her contribution to the scientific

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