Academic Master

Education, English

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The book, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” is a well-known book written by Rebecca Skloot and published in 2010. This book comprises the story of an African-American woman who goes through one major medical dilemma in her life. The author successfully discusses the life of Henrietta Lacks with consideration of the feature of the immortal cell line (Skloot, 2010). Here, the focus is to critically review the book presented by Skloot to identify the specific ethical issues raised by the character of Henrietta Lacks.

The book effectively describes the life patterns of Henrietta Lacks with the consideration of the immortal cell line. This particular immortal form of cell line is known as the HeLa. This feature was explored from the Lack’s cervical cancer cells in 1951. The main concern related to this medical development is that HeLa was attained without the knowledge of Lack and ultimately became the reason for her death. She was a poor tobacco farmer who had no idea about the cells taken from her body. Undoubtedly, it is the one major development in the field of medicine that provides necessary assistance in the development of vaccines for different diseases.

It is notable to mention that this specific medical advancement raises many ethical issues related to the aspects of race and class. This book significantly highlights the ethical issues that Lack and her family face. A severe ethical dilemma and complex social concern can be observed in the immortal life of Henrietta Lacks, which is related to the features of Hela cells. The ethical concern in the case of Henrietta Lacks developed because medical researchers never considered the need for her consent or even her family’s. She does not have any idea about using her tissue samples for the sake of research. The particular ethical concerns described by Rebecca Skloot can be identified as the features of consent, privacy, and compensation, which were not considered in the case of Henrietta Lacks.

Consent is one of the major concerns which was completely overlooked in the case of Lacks. It is crucial to understand that Lacks was publically declared as the source of HeLa cells. The genome of HeLa cells attained by Lacks was sequenced and published in a public database, which negatively impacts the privacy rights of Lacks and her family. The particular perspective of ethics in the case of Henrietta Lacks can effectively be observed with the consideration of different theories of ethics. The particular aspect of the ethics of care is the normative form of ethical theory, which provides indications about the feature of interpersonal associations and is closely related to the element of moral action. The facet of ethics of care can be addressed in the specific case of Henrietta Lacks. This theory of ethics focuses on the dependency of individuals on each other. It is crucial for people to consider moral considerations to meet their needs. This particular consideration was not adopted in the case of Henrietta Lacks, which ultimately created the feature of an ethical dilemma.

Virtue ethics is another facet of the ethical theory that addresses the issue of ethics in terms of mind and character concerning the individual’s approach. It provides the necessary consideration about the concept of virtues and how it can be effectively blended with the nature of humans. This approach of virtue and ethics can be determined in the case of Lacks, in which medical practice does not involve the consideration of the moral obligations related to the case of Henrietta Lacks.


Skloot, R. (2010). The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Macmillan. Retrieved from



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