Summary Of The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks

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The book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, provides insight to scientific development issues in the mid 1900’s through the eyes of the Lacks family, the scientists involved, and the author herself. Three key issues discussed in this book are the ethics of informed consent for research, the ethics of genetic engineering, and how scientists relay information to people who are not experts in their areas of practice. The foundation of this book revolves around the ethical issue of consent in research and when it is necessary. In the mid 1950’s there were very few laws about doctors and scientists obtaining informed consent from patients before treating them, experimenting on them, or taking tissues or sample cells from them …show more content…
Ananda Chakrabarty created a genetically engineered bacterium to clean up oil (Schloot, 2010). The ethical issue in science then became whether or not a person can claim ownership of an organism and obtain a patent for it. By a supreme court ruling in 1980, the answer to this question became a yes under the conditions that the animal was invented, discovered, or had useful improvements (Weldon, Nov. 30). In 1998, the Harvard Oncomouse that was genetically modified to be more susceptible to cancer became the first mammal to be patented (Weldon, Nov. 30). The supreme court ruling on 1980 proved this action to be …show more content…
Then, when Victor Mckusick had the Lacks family give blood in 1974, it was not explained in an understandable manner to the family that the blood was being used for genetic examination to be compared to HeLa cells (Schloot, 2010). This failure in communication left Deborah Henriette’s daughter anxiously awaiting what she thought were test results to determine if she had cancer too, results that never came (Schloot, 2010). Mckusick also provided Deborah with material to learn about her mother’s cells that were far above her capacity to understand with only minimal education, and he did not take the time to explain it to her (Schloot, 2010). Because of these two incidents, and others, the family did not understand what was going on with Henrietta’s cells. They thought part of Henrietta, as in Henrietta herself not the cells, were still alive (Schloot, 2010). This caused great unrest within the family, particularly with Deborah who had several break downs over each new piece of information she got about her mother (Schloot, 2010). This could have been avoided from the beginning if the doctor just sat down with Henrietta or even her family and explained in an understandable way what was going on with the HeLa

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