The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks Ethos

800 Words 4 Pages
Cells stolen from Henrietta Lacks, a black woman who died of cervical cancer during the first half of the twentieth century, led to dozens of groundbreaking medical discoveries. Despite this contribution, her family lives utterly destitute, her name forgotten by all but her most dedicated followers. Rebecca Skloot’s book attempts to correct this injustice, giving life to the woman many simply know as HeLa. Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks hammers the point home by using pathos to highlight the suffering of Henrietta, logos to detail the historical context in which the breaches of ethics took place, and ethos to cement her expertise over biology and cell culturing, contextualizing the great boon HeLa cells presented. Skloot utilizes …show more content…
Cell culturing was a groundbreaking field during Henrietta’s life. At the time, no one had successfully kept human cells alive for very long outside of the body. Skloot expertly explains the Gey process of cell culturing “The drum… turned like a cement mixer twenty four hours a day… culture medium needed to be in constant motion, like blood and fluids in the body…” (Skloot 64). Skloot’s familiarity with the topic solidifies when she explains the problems faced by scientists attempting to find the optimal culturing medium and prevent contamination. The culturing media included ghoulish concoctions of “plasma of chickens, puree of calf fetus… and blood from human umbilical cords” (Skloot 60). Culturing was such a delicate operation that seemingly inconsequential things could lead to negative results “Bacteria … could find their way into cultures from people’s unwashed hands, their breath, and dust particles floating through the air…” (Skloot 60). With these setbacks in mind, it becomes clear how great a discovery a hardy, immortal cell line like HeLa proved to be. Nonetheless, this is hardly a justification for the profiteering of Henrietta’s

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