The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Literary Analysis

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Updated: Jul 10, 2021
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Morality could be defined as the things you are taught about been right and wrong. You probably develop morality when your parents/guardian would tell you to respect your elders, keeps your promises, forgive or punish. Morality is something important we should know because it’s a guide or reminder to respect others and to be a better person. Henrietta Lacks is an important African-American female in modern cells. Lacks was a “black woman born of slavery and sharecropping who fled north for prosperity”( Skloot 197). She was married and had 5 children. Henrietta was diagnosed with cervical cancer. In The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, Henrietta’s cells were important because her cells were the first immortal human cells and they were able to reproduce. First of all, “The cells produced an entire generation every 24 hours, and they never stopped. They were the first immortal human cells ever grown in a laboratory (Skloot 4)”. This is basically saying that they could not figure out whether it was the bacteria the one affecting the cells, but with Henrietta’s cells they were able to do better research. Also that the cells were multiplying . What happened to Henrietta Lacks and her family is immoral.

To start off with, when Henrietta was diagnosed with cervical cancer, Dr. Southam was supposed to give Henrietta treatments for her cancer. When she thought she was getting her treatments, Dr. Southam took her cancer cells without her consent. This makes it immoral because Dr. Southam was taking away Henrietta’s cells or in other words stealing from her. In book of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, it mentions “ With Henrietta unconscious on the operating table in the center of the room, her feet in stirrups, the surgeon on the duty, Dr.Lawrence Wharton Jr., sat on a stool between her legs. But first — though no one had told Henrietta that TeLinde was collecting samples or asked if she wanted to be a donor — Wharton picked up sharp knife and shaved two dime-shaped pieces of tissue from henrietta’s cervix: ” (Skloot 33) This proves that she wasn’t aware of what he was doing to her and that’s makes it immoral too. Dr. Southam didn’t tell her truth of what he was actually going to do to her. In generally doctors should not be doing this to any patient whether you have privilege or not. Like in the veil of ignorance, it tell us the morality of issues. The patients put their trust on them and they should not take advantage of it.

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Another point is, Hopkins getting money from Henrietta’s cells but her family isn’t. The book of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks mentions, “The Lacks brothers continued to tell anyone who’d listen that John Hopkins had stolen their mother’s cells and owed them millions of dollars.” (Skloot 206) This is basically saying that John was getting all the credit from Henrietta and when her family found out they still didn’t get anything from what Hopkins got. This is wrong because the veil of ignorance mentions that you need to be fair when you take credit from someone else.

To sum up everything, how Henrietta and her family were treat is immoral. The doctor shouldn’t have lied to her. He shouldn’t have stolen her cells. And he should have at least gave something to her family for what he was getting. If the doctor would have admitted to Henrietta of what he did to her it would have made it a little better. Also if he gave money to the family for all the suffering Henrietta had to put with it would have made it better. Knowing, understanding, and using morality helps you be a good person. It will also help you be aware of things.

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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Literary Analysis. (2021, Jul 10). Retrieved from