The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lack

Great Essays
“Medical Miracles” are a treasured and exciting part of medicine and its advancement. They are indicative of great progress in medicine as well as unique occurrences for events that result in a happy or positive outcome. The discovery of ‘Immortal Life’ in cells happened in the mid-1900s following the treatment of an African American woman named Henrietta Lacks. The cells taken from her cervix were the first of human cells to grow rapidly and reproduce many generations of cells in a culture in a laboratory. A magnificent medical miracle however has a deeper and darker side to it as explored in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. It is a factual based account of the life of Henrietta Lacks and her HeLa cells. This story touches …show more content…
Henrietta Lacks was a poor African American woman living as a tobacco farmer in Baltimore. She went to the hospital John Hopkins after feeling that “I got a knot on my womb,” (Skloot, 13). Upon further examination, it was determined that she had stage 1 cervical cancer after Dr. Jones, a gynecologist, found an “eroded, hard mass about the size of a nickel” on her cervix (Skloot, 17). Throughout the course of her treatment, Dr. Howard Jones and Dr. George Gey took a sample of her cervical tumor tissue to take a closer look at her cells. It was in the laboratory that her cells, to be named HeLa based on standard naming procedure of the first two letters of the first and last name in place at the time, would create the first human immortal cell line. However, this is where the first turn in this story begins. Henrietta Lacks was never told of her HeLa cells and the potential impact they had in medicine. This is in part due to her being a poor African American woman who is seeking treatment at a charity hospital, John Hopkins. John Hopkins “was one of the top hospitals in the country. It was built in 1889 as a charity hospital for the sick and poor,” which in that area included many African Americans (Skloot, 15). Even with that background, it …show more content…
However, when she asked for more information, the teacher was not able to provide her with anything other than what was in the textbook. Her hunger and drive to know more about the person behind HeLa cells sent her on a ten-year journey in which she researched, interviewed, wrote about Henrietta Lacks, and wrote to her surviving family members. At first the relatives did not want to talk to Rebecca Skloot regarding the cells because they thought she was like any other reporter yet after continued pursuits, they eventually began to talk to her. It was at this point she realized the family did not have any real knowledge as to what was going on or even as to what cells were. This is representative of the health disparity that existed in the mid-1900s but still exists today. Certain groups of people, whether it be based upon ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or location experience health disparities. These health disparities are a result of a lack of education or promotion of health. The family of Henrietta Lacks are direct descendants from slaves who live in a poor town in Baltimore. Her children did not finish formal secondary education just like their parents. Due to this lack of knowledge, they did not have a firm understanding of what HeLa cells were and where distrustful of doctors in general. The doctors who treated Henrietta Lacks should

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