Henrietta Lacks and Her HeLa Cells

Updated October 3, 2021

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Henrietta Lacks and Her HeLa Cells essay

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Henrietta Lacks was a woman whose tissue rights were stolen from her. When she was dying from an aggressive case of cervical cancer her tissue was taken without consent. Which lead to enhancements all over the globe with in many various fields. With fields such as genetics, medicine, virology, pathology, mosquito mating is along side some of the numerous field’s HeLa cells has revolutionized. But did Henrietta and the Lacks family have a right to her tissue samples that were taken from her? Many people like the Lacks family believe they have a right to their tissues even after they have physically left their bodies. Although court cases may lead to the expansion of how legal proceedings add rights on ownership over tissue cells start without appropriately sent all rights. People like the Lacks family prove that they should have a right to their own tissues even after death because of their given rights, ethics, and even religious beliefs prompting them to protect themselves or others even after death.

People are guaranteed the right to informed consent that falls under the importance of given rights, for it creates a barrier that protects one’s self from others. An informed consent is a document that a person signs after a doctor explains all the knowledge of possible risks and benefits from a procedure if they choose to go through with one. Even if this form is signed a patient must have had a process of information and conversation with a doctor for this process to be complete. If one or more of these steps is not done properly from the hand of a doctor or nurse, this can be considered as a person’s rights being deprived. In Skloot’s book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Day, Henrietta’s husband is asked to come into the hospital to sign paperwork they also ask permission to hold an autopsy on Henrietta’s body but was shot down.

While Day’s cousins later wore him down claiming “it wouldn’t hurt” which made Day agree and sign to give permission to hold an autopsy on Henrietta’s body (89-90). That started to doctors taking more samples of Henrietta’s tissue and created a chain of people receiving these tissues and making world changing differences with them. With Henrietta’s family never being informed or made knowledgeable about the changes Henrietta was still doing through her cells. But if a person or a family have no ownership over tissue cells wouldn’t this paper form of consent not be needed. Making the right to having a real information consent process more important to them and many people alike.

With people like John Moore, from the case of Moore versus Regents of the University of California “in 1988 a higher court declared that he did have ownership rights to his body, that he had not relinquished them when he consented to removal of his spleen, and that he never permitted subsequent research and commercial development” (Petrini 31). Acknowledging and proving people hold some quality of ownership over tissue cells that are given away when a person goes through the proper informed consent process. Reveling consent is a matter of a person relinquishing their ownership rights with in that moment to receive medical help or for a person’s body to be examined.

People have a system of defining right and wrong, based on their personal beliefs falling under ethics as these beliefs set a standard for decisions they make. With a person believing in many different views and perspectives which that should be respected when they have specific wishes. In the code of ethics that is talked about in Skloot’s book “The voluntary consent of the human is absolutely essential”. Bringing to light that it is unethical for a doctor or nurse to not tell a patient all the needed information for a formal consent of one’s rights. As they these doctors and nurses are expected to uphold these beliefs in their everyday decisions and actions. With the biggest consequences that can result from one of these professionals could lose their license to practice medicine.

Further destroying a person’s credibility and career making it necessary for a career change that can not be as successful due to actions. Thus, making it an easier decision for a person to choose the ethical choice but unfortunately, not all people see this in a black and white perspective. In “Tissue Transplants: The Dilemma of the Body’s Growing Value” by Thorne, Emanuel D claims that “[a]lthough they may be able to relieve a great deal of suffering, therapies based on human tissue are unlikely to gain widespread acceptance without a reassessment of closely held values” (38). Stating that using tissue samples to create life changing evolutions for society there would have to be a large nit of values seen within people. Proving that beliefs hold a powerful grip on what happens in the world of actions and decisions of the globe. Without the choice to lead by your personal ethical beliefs a void of standard choices would be at a loss.

People are given the right to believe in a religion and hold a code of beliefs based on said religion that they live by. Many religions have a set of laws and ethical beliefs they believe in with each religion being different in this area. Take Jews for example they don’t believe in having an autopsy when a person dies. Believing that the entire body must be buried and that a proper burial can not happen if the body is missing or has had something removed from it which would happen during the autopsy procurer. A person no matter the belief should be able to optout of having a procedure like this done. The case of Moore Vs Regent of the University of California. With the case decision helping form an idea of if property rights are necessary or denied. Moore winning the dispute over information consent and not for property or ownership over his cells he lost the share of profits from the Mo cell line but started to help draw the line to this much debated subject. In the case of Moore, he signed over the rights to his tissue even though he’s particular belief was for one specific area of studies to be excluded the paperwork stated otherwise. People have rights to be able to speak their mind shouldn’t they have the right to say what happens to their body based on their own ethical beliefs.

Contrary to popular belief is that a person doesn’t have any rights to their body or tissue after they have died. With the thought of a person be spiritually un-present in a body, people lead to think that rights to said body is gone. When people leave behind wills and wishes to people for them to do in respect of the person and body. Many see these wishes at times not necessary since the person is dead. Skloot makes note of a similar belief where people believe “when you leave tissue in a doctor’s office or a lab, you are abandoning them as waste, and anyone can take your garbage and sell it” (205). This is important as leaving your tissue samples is not as simple as forgetting it as part of your property you have in your purse. But it is more complex as people can be unaware or gave rights to study the sample. Never did they give the person consent to be the new property holder and further gain financially from this sample. While financial gain can be at cost to a person due to a tissue sample, a doctor obtained there can be other costs that can be greater than the evolution that can come from it. Yes, Henrietta’s cells brought greater change and evolution for humanity but at the cost of her right to choose. With death there still be a choice of what is to happen because respecting a person’s body is an ethical stanard a person shouldn’t break.

In conclusion given rights, ethics and religious beliefs are reasons why people should have rights to their tissue even after they have left their body. Henrietta Lacks was a woman whose tissue rights were stolen from her. Like the case of Moore versus Regents of the University of California “in 1988 a higher court declared that he did have ownership rights to his body. As well as people having beliefs religious or not that should be respected when a person’s body is involved. The immortal life of Henrietta Lacks: Page. 203 or 317 Evidence of no rights. Skloot, Rebecca. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Broadway Paperbacks, 2010. But in the real world many times people are denied rights over their tissue for many reasons.

Henrietta Lacks and Her HeLa Cells essay

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Henrietta Lacks and Her HeLa Cells. (2021, Oct 03). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/henrietta-lacks-and-her-hela-cells/


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