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Dr Chester Southam as Depicted by Rebecca Skloot in her Book

This paper identify and show who Dr.Chester is and why the author chose to mention him in her book. Chester Southam was a medical doctor and research specialist in immunology and cancer treatment.The doctor injected terminal cancer patients with the Nile Virus while researching on cancer treatments. In 1952 he infused cancerous cells in convicts of a penetiary in the state of Ohio with fifty percent being black and later injected 300 women with similar live cancer cells.In 1960 he carried research at a Jewish chronic disease hospital injecting the patients with HeLa cells leading to his being reported and found guilty of fraud, unprofessionalism and deception(Skloot, 2017). Barred for one year from his practice he was later elected president of the association of America‘s researchers in cancer cells

According to Skloot,Dr.Chester brings into focus the way the scientific community has violated human beings through unethical behaviour(Skloot,2017). Although the legal framework was scanty, he declined to inform his patients. The objectification of these patients lowers the value of human life and dignity. Both terminal ill and healthy patients whose lives were put at risk by DR Chester should be treated with dignity.The doctor and his peers practised racism in their unethical research using women and majority of black prisoners. She even mentions the ‘night doctors’ who were known to kidnap African Americans for use in research.

The theme of social class and poverty is well portrayed by the behaviour of this doctor since he represents the educated upper class who is only punished slightly by revoking his license for one year despite the grave wrongs done to common people and instead he is appointed to head a prestigious research facility.The poor common people are exploited by the upper class in the name of research and advancement not to mention the financial gains to the researchers. Dr.Chester has been chosen by the author to show racism, exploitation of the poor and unethical behaviour in medical research.


McEwen, J. E., Boyer, J. T., & Sun, K. Y. (2013). Evolving approaches to the ethical management of genomic data. Trends in Genetics29(6), 175-182.

Skloot, R. (2017). The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Broadway Books, 25



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