The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks: An Analysis

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HeLa cells were the basis of cell culture in the latter half of the 20th century. In The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot explores the scientific achievements and ethical issues relating to HeLa cells, as well as the connection HeLa cells have with the Lacks family. When Henrietta Lacks was being treated for cervical cancer, the doctors shaved parts of her tumor off and sent them to a lab, where her cancerous cells never stopped dividing. She never consented to have her cells sent to a lab to be experimented on for billions of dollars, money with which her family was never compensated. Henrietta’s “immortal” cell line, known as HeLa, has allowed scientists to experiment with human cells with outcomes such as the polio vaccine. The cell line has also helped to determine ethical barriers for when human cells are used for experimentation.
Dr. Lawrence Wharton Jr. shaved two pieces from Henrietta’s cervix, one from her tumor and one from the surrounding healthy tissue for TeLinde’s research on cervical cancer. He sent them to Dr. George Gey to be cultured by his assistant, Mary Kubicek. Henrietta’s cells multiplied extremely quickly- a vastly different outcome compared
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Henrietta’s cells are the foundation of a remarkable amount of scientific research and discovery. It surprised me to find out how many discoveries were waiting to happen and were finally achieved in a short amount of time because of HeLa, and because of Dr. Gey’s decision to send the cells to scientists around the world. Another thing that surprised me was that the Lacks family still has not gotten compensation from the major corporations who got rich off HeLa. The most disturbing thing, in my opinion, is that Henrietta Lacks is incredibly important to science yet her family still can’t afford health

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