Reflection Essay of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
In the non-fiction book by Rebecca Skloot ‘The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,’ it shows how the writer writes about a woman of title whose cells were harvested from her tumor. The book displays how the harvest was done without her consent while she was alive. It is a true story based on the life of a young farmer who died aged 31 in the year 1952. The Southern-African American tobacco farmer had died from cervical cancer and in modern history, the cells that were harvested from her body have become an important tool in modern-day medicine. This story was filled with success and anguish despite it being filled with issues of morality and ethics. The legal parts were also developed as it portrays the apparent nature of biasness in the American health care system. The story at john Hopkins hospital displays despicable and annoying values of the nurses and other staffs who work there. The doctors demonstrated a pure lack of care for Henrietta when she was literarily burning to c crisp but the doctors wrote indicated that she seemed fine in their reports. Due to the life of poverty of Henrietta, the doctors evidently disregarded her in a case where they valued treating the more powerful and rich whites than the blacks, thus by the American standards subjecting Henrietta to in inhumane treatment that denied her full treatment.
In matters of life and death, it is despicable that doctors ignored Henrietta by not according her the best efforts to save her. This clearly shows how the doctors do not value when Henrietta was dying and was not given the best attention to save her. Even though it was a common practice to harvest cells from a dead person, it is unethical to do so without their consent while alive. As this act may be the worst part of her treatment, the disregard doctors had to her was way worse. It cannot be precise and certain that Henrica being poor and black is the reason why she was treated poorly with disregard but in her lifetime the trends that were demonstrated made it appear as though the things that mattered the most were ethnicity and class.it was evident from the plot that Henrietta’s doctors were not valuing her as much as doctors are expected to value other patients. The book’s setting and storyline demonstrate the negligence of doctors to many of their patients especial of black origin in the mid-1900s. it shows a time where people were made to suffer more than they ought to and a complete disregard of the well-being of others is represented.
In the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks they got fewer pain medications and had higher mortality rates” (Skloot, pg. 64) showed that blacks besides suffering more pain they died frequently, which is a passage that is used to show that many blacks just like Henrietta were significantly treated worse than whites due to their poverty and race. Thus being given semi and low-quality care. The cells harvested in from Henrietta’s dead body have been used for science success as the have served advancements in research and development in the medical field thus becoming immortal. The setting occurred in a time when segregation in America was at peek and despite being a success for the medical development it was a sorrowful moment for the family of Henrietta.
The story shows of ho modern growing of living cells were kick-started through Henrietta’s sample tumor that was harvested and grown in the lab calling her cells ‘Hela’ that was taken at the John Hopkins Hospital. The main point of reading the book was the highlights presented in the book into modern advances in medicine. With success agony and sorrows the story presents multiple lines of anguish and injustice that Henrietta suffered and the sorrows of her family especially the daughter Oprah. There are also the aspects of lack of consent, segregation and racism, the unethical profiting of the biotech industry from the unknowing donation of a poor black woman. Se states “They keep trying to push us off the earth, but God won’t let them.” (Skloot, pg.72) In this statement Skloot is telling Courtney how a black community Turner Station had been pushed out as it was no longer available on the maps. Taking into consideration the life of Henrietta and the injustices she faced one can easily burst into outrage. But through proper analysis of the book, I was able to realize that the unjust aspects of the story to Henrietta were not just extraordinary but rather a day to day related to the racism that most people face when seeking for care.
Lack of consent is a major theme expressed by the story as Henrietta was never told or asked if her cells would be used for a research and the misleading factor whereby her family members were brought in for checking on the basis that it was for their own good but in the real sense it was for their own benefit whereby they were to check and detect if the Hela cells are genetic related. In contemporary health care system harvesting of cells for the purpose of developing medical research has become a common practice, however, there is a need for consent from the patient whose cells are to be used or even her family.
The Hella cell line eventually became a commercial patented line that generated massive revenue for a number of biotech companies as the family of Henrietta languishes in poverty with economic depression. The unjust nature of this information is surprising as according to the ethical obligations, legally the family would be entitled to a share of the biotech firms profits. Legal proceedings that followed were more surprising when court ruling ruled against Moore whose cancer cells were patented for commercial use stating that once the cells were exercised out of his body, he was not entitled to its financial benefits. The 2003 legal precedents of no rights considered the scenarios where sample tissues were freely donated. Ignoring the fact that there was the issue of informed consent in the case of Henrietta and misleading upon testing.
After reading the chapters in the book I have often viewed the world in a different way with a possibility of other more complex and greater injustices carried in the medical industry that are underlying the themes and other concerning issues presented by the chapter. The structures and chapters I covered in the book had shown several injustices that are projected against Henrietta Lacks and exposure of unethical practices in the medical fields. The possibilities raised to me is that these injustices may have been a distraction from greater injustices. The structural background of racism was quite rather different from the questions of finance and other benefits interests raised through the features of biotech companies registering massive revenue through the use of these cells. The story may have other concerns that were much bigger but were not accurately presented as major themes like the under looking of lack of education access and employment opportunities that are the core cause of these themes. With proper educations, the characters would be able to make informed decisions and give out consent to the doctors. Employment is portrayed through the fact that Henrietta Lacks was a farmer and precisely stated to be poor thus giving rise to the lack of care by the doctors. The lack of health care systems is also portrayed in the story in that it was until Henrietta’s tumor was fully developed and she would feel it herself that she went to seek treatment. Thus the rise for an urge to developed health care systems for early detection that was lacking in the story.
It is not precise but I can say the level and standard of care given to Henrietta Lacks was inadequate and it was an unethical practice for the John Hopkins hospital to harvest her cells without her consent or consent of her family. The remaining family of Lacks had a right to be given proper information and be enlightened of the tests that were carried upon then rather than the hospital misinforming them that it was for their own good in the detection of cancer while in real sense it was for their benefit. The system until now has consistently failed Henrietta’s family many of whom continue to suffer from chronic illness physically and mentally. Even the end-user result of these extraordinary cells from Henrietta fueled a biotechnology revolution, the underlying injustices to Lacks should not go unnoticed. And because of the true storyline presented by Skloot, we ought to continue talking of these underlying injustices.
Skloot, Rebecca. The immortal life of Henrietta Lacks. Broadway Books, 2017.