The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lackswas written by Rebecca Skloot. This accomplished journalist decided to reveal the life behind the HeLa cells. She traveled all over the United States of America in pursuit of the answers regarding a woman, whom the cells were extracted from in order to be used for scientific research. These questions and answers remained to be mystery even to the Lacks’ family. The family hadbeen kept in obliviousness for a number of yearsabout the truth behind the HeLa cells and the way the scientist around the world had actually acquired the cells. As the science advanceddue tothese immortal cells, academics and medics began to wonder about their source. These are the secrecies that are revealedin this contentious, engaging and enthralling book.

Henrietta Lacks lived in Clover, Virginia, which is also known as the Lacks Town. In the year 1951, Johns Hopkins medical center was the only hospital in the entire Baltimore that would actually treat African Americanpatients. The doctors at the Johns Hopkins medical center diagnosed Henrietta and stated that she had a cervical cancer.(Skloot, 2010) At this point, Skloot divides the book into three main segments: life, death and immortality. She focuses on Henrietta’s lifebefore examining the main story of her cells.

Skloot enlightens us of her slave origin and the intriguing social life that she steered. She is described as the sweetest girl whomeveryone would want to meet. She frequently complained of the knot on her womb, which was later diagnosed to be cervical cancer. Since then her strenuous treatment began. Doctor George Gey extracted cancer cells from the patient’s bodyin order to conduct experiments in an attempt to find the immortal cells line. For the very first time Doctor Gey succeeded in his culturing and findings in these immortal cells (Skloot, 2010).

His excitement issaid to have made him to distribute these immortal cells to fellow scientists for them to conduct furthertests fortheir cancer research. These cells spread all over the world and became a popular source of studying. In the meantime, while the whole world was profiting from Henrietta’s cells, the Lacks’ family was not informed of what was taking place; all they knew was that their lovely mother was gone, and they could not comprehend or realizewhy (Skloot, 2010). They were unaware that their mother’s cells were making doctors worldwide be famous and rich. At this point, the author places the reader in the mind of each person she writes about. The reader can now comprehend the pain felt by the family for losing such a wondrous and kindheartedwoman. Furthermore, the reader gets to know the mentality of the medics as they removed the Henrietta’s precious cells.

When the doctors were taking the biopsy of the cells, they obtained more tissue samples for their own experimental use. The doctors never gave a prior notice to Henrietta or herfamily before extracting the cells for research purposes. One of the principleissues Skoot addresses is the concept of the informed consent. The ethical consideration between the patient and the doctor, as well as the confidentiality and communication that were taken for granted,that may be relatively present in the modern medical practice (Beauchamp, 2009).

Lacks’ cancer was highly aggressive; tumor spread very fast and actually killed her in the end. The scientists continued testingtissues they had previously biopsied. They found out that Henrietta’s cells were capable of growing more rapidly than any other culture they had inthe lab. HeLa cells became the pivotal point of all types of tests and medical advances for many scientists, who were unaware of where the cells derived from. (Skloot, 2010).

According to the Purtilo’s framework on the ethical dimension in the health care, the key ethical principles in the health care include beneficence, autonomy, non-maleficence and justice. He also states that there are other ethical principles that relate to the relationships that exist between the medics; these include fidelity, veracity, confidentiality and privacy (Purtilo, 2011). These principles are normally essential, especially when analyzing ethical dilemmas such as that of Henrietta.

According to Purtilo, the right of an individual to determine and make independent decisions about his or her life needs to be upheld. Thus, the principles of privacy, individual choice, self-determination and the respect of the wishes of an individual or his/herrepresentative must be followed.(Purtilo, 2011) In The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, both Henrietta and herfamily were never consulted before the doctor commercialized her immortal cells. Healthcare issues related to the autonomy normally include competency, informed consent, disclosure of the information and the acceptance or refusal of medically indicated treatment. These ruleswere severelyoverlooked by the doctors depicted in thebook. Autonomy normally providesthe client or the patient with theright to make healthcare decisions based on individual values and goals.(Purtilo, 2011)

Purtilo describes beneficence as the actions that benefit others. It actually implies both enthusiastically conducting good actions and considering their potential harm.(Purtilo, 2011)Professionally, thehealthcare staffstrives not only to do what is right, but also to avoid doing harm. In this book, doctor Gey never considered the ethical part of distributing the immortal cells worldwide. Even though his action enhanced the advancement of the healthcare sector, with regard to the patient whose cells were extracted, it was unethical to distribute the cells without prior knowledge of either the patient or herfamily. In addition, confidentiality of the client’s personal information was not treated with required discretion. This is because Henrietta’s health aspectswere intruded and shared outside the healthcare setting. With regard to the ethical dimension in the healthcaresector, such actions were completely out of professional ethics (Purtilo, 2011).

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