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Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot Analysis

The book “Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” authored by Rebecca Skloot stands out to be one of the best literature works, infused with a blend of memoir, inclusive of social history as well as science. However, the book’s best part is focused on the life of a woman whose significance still prevails even after her death. The biography based on Henrietta, a black woman of thirty one years of age, who was diagnosed with an intensive case of cervical cancer which eventually took her life. For her friends and family, she was a person with a sweet personality, a caring friend and seemed very pretty. Her peers remember her as one that had a passion for dancing, always offering care to others around her, and always open to share whatever little she had. All points considered, the book discusses how she’s been forgotten despite of her loving and caring nature and the only part that remains and remembered is her cells that were taken from a portion of her tumor. The cells that forever changed the history of medicine.

At this point the question of whether the cells taken by Dr. Gey to further study them, was an ethical or unethical act? Considering the good intentions of the doctor can lead us to believe that he wanted to further research into them but from an ethical point of view, this act is quite unethical since neither did he consult Henrietta nor did he form a contract with her before distributing her cells (Wilson 2016). The continued use of He-La cells is a matter that too seems unethical since the present research still seems to be in disrespect of Henrietta and her family. No mention of it was made to her family and their consent wasn’t considered as well. According to the stated Law, any tissue donor who’s made part of the research will in some way receive a benefit from it (Hughes 2011). However, in Henrietta’s case, even after her death, her family was not aware of this nor were they included in the included in the benefit that they were rightfully entitled to.


Wilson, D. (2016). A troubled past? Reassessing ethics in the history of tissue culture. Health Care Analysis, 24(3), 246-259.

Hughes, K. (2011). Remembering Racism and Determining Ethical Practice: Why Henrietta Lack’s Tale May Remain Immortal Biology 127 January 25, 2011.



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