Henrietta Lacks : An Abstraction

Decent Essays

Elie Wiesel has stated “We must not see any person as an abstraction. Instead, we must see in every person a universe with its own secrets, with its own treasures, with its own sources of anguish, and with some measure of triumph” (as cited in Skloot, 2010, p. 1). This paper will examine the many ways in which Henrietta Lacks, a relatively poor African woman whose cells were extracted from her without any consent, was viewed primarily as an abstraction rather than a person by the scientific community and the media; and the consequences that ensued as a result.
The scientific community is culpable of viewing Henrietta Lacks as an abstraction rather than a human being in that they disregarded her right to privacy in extracting her cells …show more content…

Additionally, the scientific community did not display an ounce of respect to Lacks nor her family.
The media was also involved in neglecting to recognize Lacks as a person rather than a concept. The media bereaved Lacks of her identity as they called her by the name Helen Lane instead of using her real her real name. The use of the fictitious and more Caucasian name to identify Lacks in the media further dehumanized her and her family’s memory of her. They did not whatsoever consider Lacks’ family, their ordeal and whether or not the assumptions of Lacks being made were accurate. Moreover, the media did not provide any remuneration to Lacks’ family for using her story for their benefit. For example, an episode on the very popular television show Law and Order was based on the story of Henrietta Lacks however, no credit nor payment was given to the family. Apparent here is further display of the media’s view of lacks as an abstraction rather than a person.
Rebecca Skloot, however, used a different perspective in her portrayal of Lacks. This is evident in the way in which she conducted her research and the way she wrote the book. Skloot’s book, The immortal life of Henrietta Lacks, included both the “scientific element concerns the origin and the subsequent uses of the HeLa cell line of cultured cancer cells” (Harper, 2011, p. 463) and the social and

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