The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

1003 Words5 Pages
In 1951, one woman’s misfortune became the ultimate breakthrough and lead to a huge discovery in science. Henrietta Lacks was a lower class African-American woman living in Baltimore, Maryland at the time. She had been suffering from a “knot in her womb” that caused her to experience grave pain. In the 1950’s, a time when hospitals turned away lower class African American patients away, they had access to receive free treatment from the public ward at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Although doctors there agreed to examine these patients, it is questionable how thorough and genuine they were throughout the examination. In 1950, Henrietta gave birth to her youngest daughter Deborah, and by January of 1951 she had a full-blown cancerous tumor in…show more content…
However, nothing they ever provided hospitals and researchers with were for their benefit. The education levels of the Lacks family members were so elementary that they needed people to explain to them what a cell was. They could not read and comprehend scientific journals that researchers rarely gave them in order to better understand the contributions HeLa cells made to cancer research. The family only became aggravated when the first mainstream article published about Henrietta Lacks in Rolling Stone Magazine said that HeLa cells were once being sold for $25 a vial. The actual figures that HeLa cells were bringing in are incalculable, but this was the first (and smallest) figure that the Lacks family members were ever exposed to. The issue that Henrietta’s children began fighting for was regarding how their mother’s cells made so much money, yet they never saw a single penny from it. The ethical debate comes into play as Skloot uncovers the decade debacle on whether or not cells are a patient’s property. The book reveals other cases that were ongoing simultaneously during the early 1980’s in which doctors were taking advantage of patients’ medical records and testing patients in order to make a profit for themselves. For the Lacks family in particular, their inability to hire lawyers and fight for their rights is displayed throughout the novel. The reader is able to see how naïve the family is and how doctors took advantage of them. Henrietta’s daughter, Deborah, at

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