The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

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Rebecca Skloot, the author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is author that depicted activism through her narrative. Skloot is arguing the importance of the privilege of informed consent. She became an activist on the behalf of Henrietta Lacks’ family to uncover the identity of a woman whose consent was worth less than a penny. The purpose of writing The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks was to uncover the identity of Henrietta Lacks as a person and not merely as HeLa cells and also to provide some compensation to the family from the injustice. Henrietta Lacks grew in Clover, Virginia in a tobacco farm. She developed cervical cancer after giving birth to five children.

When Henrietta went to the John Hopkins Hospital to seek treatment, the doctors took her cells without her consent for experiment purposes. Instead of focusing on treatment, the doctors especially Guy focused on research. Henrietta’s cells grew and became known as HeLa cells. However, the HeLa cells were grown outside of Henrietta’s knowledge. The Lacks family was completely oblivious about HeLa cells as well. Companies made profit from HeLa cells, but no one once asked, what was the origin of the cell? Guy never disclosed the identity of HeLa cells. John Hopkins’ lack of concern towards Henrietta was just the tip of the iceberg as there were many African Americans like Henrietta who bore the consequences of white supremacy.

In fact, there was a color section in John Hopkins, where all the minority groups were kept. The minority groups were deemed inferior based on their illiteracy. Even when the doctors were treating Henrietta, she was not aware of the extent of the treatment, as the doctors did not find it necessary to rely all of the information. The head researcher, Guy told the truth to Henrietta when she was on her deathbed. No one knows if that is true or not because it seemed that his colleagues were trying to justify his actions. Everyone says that Guy and Henrietta never met in person.

According to Rebecca Skloot, the privilege of consent goes beyond Henrietta Lacks’ case. Prisoners were also treated as subjects who were given a virus without them knowing. The negative aftermath of the propensity of the HeLa cells was suffered by the Lacks family. Henrietta’s daughter Deborah suffered the most. They were always the scrutiny of the media. The privilege of informed consent also raises ethical concerns. After Guy gave the HeLa cells for research purposes, he lost control. His detachment from disclosing Henrietta’s identity was very unethical. The media and the companies that received the HeLa cells who focused on the scientific benefits without caring about the origin was more unethical.

Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is written as a story with pure emotions. The author uses interviews of the family, friends, doctors, and nurses to form her story. She used newspaper clippings to find the people that she needed to interview. The time commitment of the author depicts that she is a true activist. Rebecca Skloot took responsibility for the hurt that she caused to the family by opening old wounds. She also used part of the profits of the book to open an organization that gives scholarships to the descendants of Henrietta Lacks as well as others who have been taken advantage of in the name of science and research. By reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, people can acknowledge and appreciate the luxury of consent and compensation as now-a-days, consent is taken and the subjects are well compensated.

Cite this paper

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. (2021, Oct 31). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/the-immortal-life-of-henrietta-lacks-by-rebecca-skloot-2/

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