Rebecca Skloot 's The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks

1326 WordsApr 13, 20176 Pages
The conversation of consent to medical research of one’s tissues is critical due to the increasing number of discoveries in the field of medicine. In the 1950s, Johns Hopkins Hospital encountered one example of an ethical problem regarding education in the realm of medical research. Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks does well in elaborating on this conflict. This true story involves an African American woman who, while undergoing treatment for cervical cancer, has her cells extracted from her without permission. Skloot achieves a more personal level of the story by describing the lives of Henrietta’s children, then and now, in addition to the story of Henrietta herself. Unfortunately, the Lacks family had a poor…show more content…
However, if the Lacks family had a richer background in education, the ethics in this situation may not be so questionable. The problem of poor education in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks plays an important role in two distinct ways. Firstly, the lack of education in Henrietta’s family gave rise to the notorious deception by the medical professionals at Johns Hopkins who interacted with the cells; namely, had Henrietta and/or her family been more knowledgeable, a more careful approach to her treatment could have been taken without the prospect of physicians taking advantage of them. This is unsettling, because what if Henrietta declined the extraction? What would have happened to medicine without her cells and the research following their replication? This is not to argue that she was not wrongly treated, but to pose a very important question involving the persistence of essential research: what accomplishments have been done without the patient knowing of their contribution? Ideally, after the unveiling of Henrietta’s story, the answer would be none. This pushes the level of complexity even further, because even though what happened was strictly ethical for the utilitarian, Gey undoubtedly deceived the family in doing so; one may want to dislike Gey, yet his actions led to a myriad of useful discoveries in the medical field. Secondly, the absence of a
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