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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot - Essay Example

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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot is a very fascinating story that brings into the limelight how oppressive the society can be to the poor and the underprivileged. The entire story revolves around issues related to gender, class, race and medical ethics…
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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
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"The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot"

Download file to see previous pages The author tells how the researchers managed to discover a number of vaccines that they used to treat different diseases including polio, cancer, and other chronic diseases. In fact, the researchers are making billions of dollars from the sale of the vaccines. Nevertheless, even as the scientists make billions of dollars from the research, they do not inform Lacks that the cancer cell used in the research was taken from her body. Neither do they inform her that it is because of the cell taken from her that they are making billions of dollars. In fact, the researchers kept the secrecy of the origin of the cancer cell by adopting the name "Hela" to ensure that the poor Lacks does not know that it was her cancer cell. Finally, Lacks dies of cancer for lack of enough money to receive medical attention. In this regard, Skloot is trying to tell readers how merciless and unjust the society can be (Skloot, 2011).
Ethically, the scientists would be expected to obtain the informed consent of Lacks before going ahead to use her cancer cell in the research. Additionally, morally speaking, the researchers would be expected to use the money derived from the sale of the vaccines and drugs to help Lacks manage her health condition. Unfortunately, because the researchers are greedy and selfish, their main interest is to benefit from the business by making billions of dollars.
The issue of gender also comes in as the researchers appear to ignore Lacks merely because she is a poor woman without a voice. In this regard, they knew that Lacks would not to do anything about her cell because she is not only poor, but also a woman. Additionally, the issue of race comes into focus as all the researchers who use Lacks cancer cell without permission are whites while Lacks is an African American woman (Skloot, ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
However, the book discusses a number of ethical issues that are associated to HeLa cells and makes one wonder about the ethical issues that exist today. Henrietta Lacks, an African-American woman and a mother five was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Dr.Gey noticed that Lack’s tumorous cells behaved astonishingly abnormally and divided really fast when compared to other tumor cells.
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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

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Reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
It is an exact depiction of the emotional turmoil faced by Henrietta's family, during their journey to find about Henrietta's immortal cancer cells, named as HeLa cells, used for research without the patient or family’s knowledge or consent . These cells because of its rare kind were a great scientific discovery and still hold importance in scientific research.
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The author shows struggling of two main characters of the story – mother and daughter, reviling the internal world of both women. The mother struggled to help her daughter, praying for her to be healed at revival meetings to no avail. Skloot claimed “a bit of Henrietta died” when Elsie, her daughter, went away.
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This is because for a writer who started of by writing about the agonizing life of a woman who had to battle cervical cancer, the author could however give readers and especially the family of the antagonist, who was Henrietta Lacks a very high level of hope that even though she died eventually, she continues to live because out of her cancer cell, a remedy cell called HeLa that was to be a life saving cell was to be found to help other people survive.
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Rebecca Skloot in her book, the Immortal life of Henrietta Lacks delves into the truth behind HeLa cells and highlights several ethical issues that gently surface. Henrietta lacks cancer cells were abnormal in nature. Lack’s doctor, Dr.Gey noticed that the cells grew exponentially in a short span of time, which was the same rate at which they were growing and spreading in Henrietta’s body.
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