Essay on Hela Cells

Submitted By Shemodelchic
Words: 1234
Pages: 5

Taken Without Permission
In The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks individuals throughout the novel did not have jurisdiction over themselves in the scientific community. In the 1950’s, patients of a hospital approached doctors and staff as the authority and saw no reason to question their skills in the medical field. Because of their desire to obtain information for their research, the scientific community failed to consider the rights of their patients. Like many vaccines found in science, the human body had a part in making these vaccines possible to excel. The science community would not be successful without human tissue or cells, therefore individuals and science have a common equal. Individuals who find themselves as a patient in the hospital should have the right to decide if they want any part of their body or tissue used for scientific research. In this time period, there was no such thing as a patient consent form giving doctors permission to take tissue samples. There were only forms to allow doctors to operate on patients. Henrietta Lacks signed an “Operation Permit” form to give doctors at John Hopkins permission to operate on her while unconscious (Skloot 31). Dr. Lawrence Wharton Jr. took it upon himself to shave pieces of Henrietta’s tissue from her cervix to help Dr. Richard Wesley Telinde, who wanted to prove carcinoma in situ and invasive carcinoma acted similar in the laboratory (30). Tissue from Henrietta’s tumor and cervical tissue also helped Medical Researcher George Gey grow the first immortal human cells. During the process of Dr. Wharton’s procedure on Henrietta, no one told her Dr. Telinde was collecting samples of her tissue or if she wanted to donate them (33). Although Henrietta signed an Operation Permit, her tissues were taken from her body without her consent or knowledge of usage by the John Hopkins Hospital. And in many ways this procedure explains how it was possible for Henrietta’s cells to become so important. Gey, had been trying for years to develop the perfect culture medium-the liquid used for feeding cells like other researchers (35). As time passed for finding a perfect medium, Gey faced a contamination problem in cell culture. And when Henrietta’s cells were tested they began growing in doubles, twenty times faster than Henrietta’s normal cells. These cells may have helped George Gey’s process of growing immortal cells but this added conflict to Henrietta as an individual. The more the cells multiplied, the more Henrietta experienced a physical downfall. Radiation treatment for Henrietta to become better, made her worse, her skin from breast to pelvis was charred a deep black from the radiation (48). Taking tissue from a patient was not an illegal law. Segregation was law and many blacks were pleased with getting treatment since discrimination was at hand. But doctors took advantage of them by sampling their tissue without consent because of their ignorance with regard to medical research. Like most patients during that time, Henrietta went along with anything the doctors said. It was understood because of their education and status, that doctors knew what was best and the patients did not question them (63). Because the priority has been placed on research, instead of treatments that would heal, Henrietta continued to have pain and tumors growing inside her abdomen (65). Individuals should have the right to say if they want further medical procedures on them and if they want their tissues used for medical research. Some patients may prefer being cured instead of dying, while their tissues are taken from them without consent, while other patients may not allow doctors to take their tissues for research.
Most doctors and researchers did not embrace Henrietta’s cells as a private research to help science. Many wanted “HeLa” (Henrietta Lacks) cells, published since they were cells used worldwide. The HeLa cell helped advances in technology such as