The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lack

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lack
In the history of medical practice, individual needs or individual freedoms are sometimes put in jeopardy in the name of medical advancement. The story about Henrietta Lacks is partly a story about the ways medical advancement can come at a cost to individuals. Please use the story of the use of cells taken from Henrietta Lacks, as well as the story of the author (Rebecca Skloot) and her journalistic work with the Lacks family, to address the following questions about ethics, research, and medicine. Whenever possible, use examples from other materials we used in the course to support your points.
You do not have to answer all the questions below. The questions are meant to prompt your thinking, but are not meant to be a strict guide (please don?t write a list of answers to these questions and turn that in as an essay). You may take any aspect of these questions as the focus of your paper, but whatever you write should be a well-focused, organized essay.

? How did gender and race come into play in the development of the HeLa cells and the treatment of Henrietta Lacks and her family? How did Henrietta?s gender, race, and socioeconomic status factor into the removal of her cells? How did these factor into the process of gaining consent? Consider, for example, the consent form that Henrietta Lacks signed when admitted to the hospital for treatment (see page 31). What does this consent form tell us about the notion of ?informed consent?? Was Henrietta Lacks able to give genuine consent? What could have been done differently so that she was more fully or truthfully informed?

? Do you think it was appropriate to take cells from a biopsy for personal research without consent? Do you think it was ethical for the lab assistant to go into the morgue to retrieve more cells from the corpse without the family?s consent? Do you think the process of taking these cells might have been different were Henrietta Lacks a person with more social power (white or male)?

? How do you think Lacks and her family members feel about medicine and doctors? Do they trust doctors? Why or why not? Were they justified in their distrust? Think about some of the other research explained in the book, such as the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. Does medicine help everyone equally?

? How do you feel about knowing that you do not have total control over your body once you go to see a doctor? If you discovered that tissue routinely removed from your body at some point in the past went on to significantly benefit science and research, would you feel that you should somehow be compensated? What do you think is more important ? a person?s personal rights over their own tissue, or contributing to science and research for the benefit of all humankind?
I’m international student, please use the simple word.


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