Ethical Principles Paper
Henrietta (Loretta) Pleasant, born in August of 1920 in Roanoke, VA, was an African American woman who was raised by her grandfather in a small cabin on a plantation. At the age of 14, she gave birth to her first child, a son, followed by a daughter four years later. She married the father of her children, her first cousin David Lacks, shortly thereafter. After having moved to Maryland for work, the couple had three other children. The last, Joseph, was born in November of 1950, and two months later, in January of 1951, Henrietta went to the hospital with abnormal bleeding. A malignant tumor of her cervix was discovered, and was treated with radiation therapy, which was…show more content… Consent
In the two and a half decades of research that was done on HeLa cells from the 1950s through mid-1970s, no thought was given regarding the family of the woman whose cells were being utilized in such diverse ways. Then things changed, due in part to a discovery regarding the invasiveness of the cells and the presence of an enzyme which is only found in certain gene pools. Because scientists wished to study the genetics of the Lack family, they contacted members to ask for blood samples, whereupon it was revealed that Henrietta’s cells were alive and well and being used for the greater good of the scientific community. The family then began to make their own inquires about what had been done with the cells from Henrietta, which were harvested without her consent.
This initial inquiry started a large controversy, evolving to the larger issues that we still have today over cervical and stem cell lines. The core ethical issue, in both the case of stem cell research and in the Henrietta Lacks case, is one of informed consent. Stem cells, particularly those for research purposes, are gathered from embryonic tissue, which begs the question; who gives consent? There are many who hesitate to advocate the use of stem cell research even today, and there are even more individuals who are strongly opposed to such research without the informed consent of the individual.
The case of Henrietta Lacks raises questions about the use of genetic materials from a human