“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”

Category: Culture
Date added
2019/08/27
Pages:  3
Words:  935
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“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” tells a story about racism, painful life experience of a family and scientific ethics violation. Cell line referred to as Hela is the genesis of an extensive medical research.

In Rebecca Skloot’s book, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”, Rebecca presents the life events of Henrietta Lacks, a mother of five who was diagnosed with cervical cancer upon delivery of her fifth born child, Joe. At four years old, her difficult life begun when her mother died and her father decided to relocate them to Clover Virginia. She went to stay with her cousins where she was impregnated at only fourteen by her cousin; Day Lacks. Their sexual union with Day Lack resulted in the birth of Lawrence their first born child. Life never favored her, she lived a hard life and in a few years, she was a mother of five. Lawrence, Elsie, Deborah, Sonny, and Joe. Most of her children experienced a lot of life challenges, Deborah became a mother at only sixteen and this forced her to marry Cheetah her boyfriend. They divorced soon. Elsie was mentally handicapped, Lawrence dropped out of school with the intention of supporting his family and was later taken to the Vietnam War. Sonny fell into drugs after joining the Airforce while Joe converted to Islam after killing a man. Henrietta is taken into the hospital where doctors harvest some of her body cells without her knowledge. Richard Telinde and Jones who were interested in culturing the HeLa cells took some samples for regeneration and multiplication (Skloot, 2017).The life of Henrietta might have been different if her mother had not moved them to Virginia following the death of their father. It was also wrong for doctors to harvest the cells of Henrietta without her consent. Doctors violated their professional ethics.

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In the book, social, environmental and behavioral factors are represented as the main causes of Henrietta sufferings. Henrietta is an African American. The author believes the doctors decided to use Henrietta’s cells because she was an African American. She creates the notion that people who are environmentally and socially different from others were lesser humans than others. The fact that she had five children who underwent a lot of challenges depicts the level of poverty and inability in life. Henrietta goes to her cousins; Day, who prowls and impregnate her (Skloot, 2013). These determinants had far-reaching effects on health, first, the reality that Henrietta’s child, Elsie was mentally handicapped is an indication of the negative result of inbreeding. Day Lacks and Henrietta were cousins. Elsie’s mental condition can be scientifically attributed to inbreeding. Secondly, Henrietta’s body cells were sub-cultured experimentally, though it was out of her consent, the act has broadened the meaning of cancer and its studies. Thanks to the medical community; they have created a better understanding of the implications of cancer on current human generations and future generations. However, the Lackses believed Henrietta’s condition was not much worse, they think the doctors corrupted body samples with their experiments.

Due to her concrete desire and love for biology, Rebecca Skloot decided to understand the concepts leading to the dead of Henrietta Lacks and the source of HeLa cells. She represents the main source of the true facts and distinction between Helen Lane and Henrietta Lacks. The book narrates how the doctor’s community intended to conceal the true origin of HeLa cells by causing confusion between Henrietta Lacks and the hypothetically cooked Hellen Lane. As a matter of fact, I believe Rebecca was and is the best author for the book. She was a biology student and whatever her mind collected and inquired was nothing other than the truth. She fits well to the findings, any author out of the biology class would have wished the hype and conceal the true finding for personal gains or entertainment.

From the book, we find three themes widely discussed, Dehumanization, Immortality and Racism in medicine. As soon as Henrietta’s cells were discovered, the cells became a matter of discussion, the human whom the cells originated is reduced to nothing. Several scientists are busy undertaking research on cancer without thinking of the original source of the cell lines. They seem not bothered by the events leading to the death of Henrietta Lacks bringing about the idea of dehumanization. Secondly, the theme of immortality is evident, Henrietta’s cells are very instrumental in the field of research because they are immortal, and the first human cells growable in the lab. From the book, her cells never died even after separation from the body. They grew slow and survived, therefore, earning themselves immortality. Though the lady has been buried for more than sixty-five years, her cells are still living. Thirdly, the theme of racism in medicine is brought into the scenes of the book. Cells from a black woman are extracted without her consent which creates a distrustful of doctors by the blacks. As seen in Henrietta’s case, her cells were removed without her consent or the consent of her family. Henrietta’s husband refused medical treatment thereafter.

In conclusion, the book gives a good representation of the origin of an event or activity and the factors associated. Henrietta’s cervical cancer led to her death in 1951, and a breakthrough in the medical world. The book elaborates how human often take advantage of the misfortunes of fellow human beings. Instead of undertaking a generalized and inclusive approach towards treating Henrietta, the doctors opted to “steal” Henrietta’s body parts for personal gains. The book, however, portrays it as a necessary evil, particularly to the modern world.

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"The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks". (2019, Aug 27). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/the-immortal-life-of-henrietta-lacks/