The Death of Henrietta Lacks

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In the 1950s, American society still embraced social equality matters where segregation and racism was standard practice. These problems are an origin for several of the issues that arise in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, written by Rebecca Skloot. Henrietta died a very personal, painful and private death at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland; then, the only real choice for free but segregated medical care for impoverished African American patients around. Treatment at Hopkins for Henrietta and other indigent patients was free but silently accustomed upon the assumption that treatment and research would concur.

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While in treatment at Hopkins, Henrietta was available for-some would say vulnerable to the medical team of Dr. Gey who was not concentrated on patient rights and his duties to them but the purpose of curing cancer. Throughout the time that she was diagnosed with cancer, cancer research was becoming an increasingly popular field. “”HeLa”” cells named from the first two letters of her first and last name, Henrietta Lacks’ cells were the first to produce well in a lab. This was historically in every type of biological laboratory since it gave the experience to control and examine cells the way they would within a human body. These “”HeLa”” cells earned a lot of money and now hold great importance in many medical findings today.

Unfortunately, these cells were obtained unknown Lacks’. Living in a time where racial discrimination was common, her white doctors did not respect Henrietta Lacks’ because of her race. They certainly had some permission required before things like cells were taken from patients, but the lack of respect for the black race-specifically a black woman may have kept doctors from believing that consent was required.

As Henrietta’s body lay in the Autopsy Department at Hopkins, still-living HeLa cells were collected from the tumors that killed her. In the story of Henrietta Lacks’ life, the book addresses the origin of the “HeLa” and the integrity and morals of the studies that took place on Henrietta’s cells. “HeLa” cells played a considerable role in many medical breakthroughs and led to a new study in science, yet Henrietta Lack, the donor of the cells, remains essentially unrecognized in American history, mainly because of her race.

Henrietta is a descendant of African American slaves; before these events, Henrietta faced many struggles given that she was not treated as other White Americans. She met unequal treatment in the hospital and her medical procedure. Lacks and her family had a “they know best” attitude towards the medical professionals given that they felt uneducated. This can be a why Lacks and her family remained oblivious to the “HeLa” cells and the studies because they did not challenge or question the medical professionals.

Additionally, in this period many scientific accomplishments were made. It can be that proper etiquette for tissue sampling has not been set. Many of the tests done on the “HeLa” cells were the first ever done. Skloot accounts firsts in; cell culture production, cell culture shipping, and cell suspension techniques. For all of these tests, none of the professionals bothered to consider the social rights of the donors; in this case, Henrietta Lacks. In some ways, the professionals overlooked the means to which they made their scientific studies.

The significant factors that led to Lacks’ unfortunate events where the social problems at that historical period. Lacks’ like many other poor minorities in America at that time did not have equal treatment. The scientific procedures can also be to blame because they did not include the rights of the patients and donors. Skloot’s account of Henrietta Lacks’ life should be a piece that all scientific professionals should be aware of. Her story can be something all can learn from to change the ethics and methods of future experimental studies.

Lacks’ family was gripped in the dark about their mother’s cells mostly because they were poor and black. As horrifying as it may be, the inequality that African American’s suffered during this time stopped them from scoring any economic rank. This made younger generations to work rather than go to school to survive. Besides, their deprival of education kept them in the dark and not disputing anything.

On social media presently, a lot of people tweet about warning black people to not be organ donors mainly because of fear. Thousands of black and Hispanic young girls have been going missing and when their bodies are found they end up with some organs missing, and the government not doing as much similar to Henrietta lack’s case. This narrative should be changed. We are humans after all.

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The Death of Henrietta Lacks. (2019, Jun 10). Retrieved from