The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks

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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks


A lot has been written on the life of Henrietta Lacks to assess the immortal life and the events taking place in the life and its impact. It is based on the strange biological behavior taking place in human. In this paper, we will try to discuss and analyze the life and biological effects of Henrietta Lack and the ethical issues in the context of “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”.

Thesis Question

To analyze the ethical issues of medical research in the biological event taking place in regard to the events discussed in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.


Henrietta Lacks, an afro-american women who was 31 years old and was mother of five children, died on October 4, 1951, a victim of uterine cervix cancer. The doctors Grey, who cared, extracted from his body malignant cells cultured in the laboratory, hence the first cells able to survive without the vital support of the body. Every 24 hours, the cells were replicated Henrietta. A year after his death, 20,000 weekly tubes were sent to Hela cells worldwide, about six trillion cells. Currently, there are more than 17,000 patents related to this cell line. Hela cells were used to develop the first polio vaccine, have been used in the treatment of diseases such as Parkinson's, leukemia, AIDS, herpes, hemophilia, tuberculosis. The problem is that they are difficult to control and raises ethical issues. Meanwhile, Henrietta's family has not given thanks and has not seen a measly dollar, thanks to your contribution. Pharmaceutical companies argue that these cells are a biological accident. Actually, this is a very complex problem, because when the first cells were removed from the body of Henrietta and the scientists themselves were aware of their potential. The extent to which proceeds benefit the family financially? It could be a parallel with organ donation: some may push for demanding money from the receivers. Moreover, these cells have undergone processes of cultivation, purification and subsequent differentiation of cash. This is a legal problem, but with many ethical questions. If the removal of the cells has taken place today, not nearly 60 years, Henrietta's family would have given signed informed consent, more or less in these terms: "We must also make clear that their participation in this trial is completely voluntary, which means that no materials will be entitled to benefits arising from the investigation. " At least that's how it works in the Clinical Research Ethics Committees in Spain.

For decades after Henrietta Lacks's death, her seemingly immortal cells have continued to reproduce. A young and vibrant wife and mother, Lacks died of cervical cancer in 1951. Her abnormal cells, known in the scientific community as HeLa, proved extraordinarily useful as well as lucrative to medical science. Before HeLa, human cell cultures quickly died. Hers did not. They continue to generate millions of dollars in profit (Gehlert & Browne, pp. 510-515). Lacks's heirs have never seen a penny from her cells. The book includes excellent ...
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