The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Exposes Racial Division in America

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The treatment of African Americans in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks demonstrates the lack of ethics in the United States health care system during the 1950s and 1960s. Under the impression that medical doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital were solely injecting radium treatment for cervical cancer, Henrietta Lacks laid on the surgical bed. During this procedure Dr. Lawrence Wharton Jr. shaved two pieces of tissue from her vagina, one from a healthy cervical tissue and one from the cancerous tumor, without Henrietta’s prior knowledge. After recovering from her surgery Henrietta exited the door marked, “Blacks Only,” the door that signified the separation between White and African-American patients. Had Henrietta been White, would the…show more content…
This marked the commencement of the ethical partition between both races within the novel. The unethical practices against the African-Americans in the U.S. Public Health Service became even more evident when the dreaded “C” word, also known as cancer, struck the body of Henrietta Lacks. After complaining of an invasive pain in her lower abdomen and excessive blood secretion, Henrietta went to the only hospital that treated African Americans with illnesses of that magnitude. At Johns Hopkins Hospital, Howard Jones cut a small sample of Henrietta’s cervix and sent it to the pathology lab. After a few weeks of testing, Henrietta received a call requesting that she return to Hopkins to begin her cancer radiation treatment. During Henrietta’s first radiation treatment, the surgeon on duty Dr. Lawrence Wharton Jr., picked up a sharp knife and began shaving pieces of tissue from her cervix-without receiving patient’s consent. As preposterous as it sounds some medical professions believed that Henrietta gave consent when she printed her name on the “OPERATION PERMIT” form which briefly stated: I hereby give consent to the staff of The Johns Hopkins Hospital to perform any operative procedures. The evocative argument is still unethical and invalid. According to the American Medical Association, physicians and doctors had to sign some version

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