Henrietta Lacks Ethics Essay

One of the most fundamental trust relationships is between a patient and their doctor. Physicians have supposedly earned their trustworthy title because of their extended education and desire to help others. However, this perception is being shattered by physicians violating patients’ trust by not providing all the information needed for making a responsible decision for a person’s health and performing unimaginable procedures. “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” provides multiple examples of the unethical practice of doctors. When scientists do not recognize their subjects as human beings and their relationship results in an unbalanced power dynamic, their advantageous position often leads to the unethical treatments of subjects, especially …show more content…
Henrietta Lacks is a poor, middle school dropout, mother of five, African American woman who is forced to drive miles upon miles to get to Hopkins Hospital that provided free medical treatment (Skloot 33). During this point in history, all hospitals were segregated, and if any blacks wanted medical treatment they had to travel further for treatment. Also, African Americans were put in a bad economic spot, and most did not have the money for adequate health care. Therefore, Lacks did not have any other options other than to go to Hopkins, where they treated her poorly by taking a sample of her cervix without asking if this was acceptable (Skloot 33). Because Lacks was uneducated, the doctors did not feel the need to ask for permission because they did not believe she would understand what they were looking for or why they would do it. Lacks was the perfect defenseless target because she simply did not understand what was occurring therefore she could not question what the doctors were doing to her. Ultimately Henrietta died from cervix cancer, however her cells that were taken from her did not die. They became known as HeLa cells and earned doctors billions of dollars without her family even aware that she was such an important person in science. After Henrietta Lacks died, doctors began to narrow in on her family to discover more about HeLa …show more content…
However, the false purpose of the study, that was told to the parents, was to test for anemia and other medical problems (Rao 445). Out of 7,000 participants, 95% were lower class African Americans which shows a biased view that the doctors believed that black people were more likely to commit crimes (Rao 445). The outcome of the experiment is that there was no way to predict the crime within the children, however the doctors gave the kids’ blood samples to the police (Rao 445). This was done without the parents consent, not to mention they were unaware of the real purpose of the experiment (Rao 445). Hopkins justified this by claiming that they provided free healthcare for the children that would be unavailable to them without the experiment (Rao 445). This is a classic case of racial profiling, these children were hand picked because it was assumed that the color of their skin would lead to a life of crime. Also, these parents were purposefully misinformed because the doctors did not find it important that the parents understand what their children were going to go through. “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” shows a consistent pattern of physicians taking advantage of their patients in order to extract data for their own purposes. They do this by creating an unfair power dynamic to where they are given most or all of the control in every situation.

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