Essay on Henrietta Lacks

Submitted By blasian12345
Words: 908
Pages: 4

Would it be fair to you and your family if someone benefited from your own cells without anyone in your family knowing? This is the problem that Henrietta Lacks and her family had to endure in the novel The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Henrietta Lacks was a poor black farmer who was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Her pains and tumors caused her to visit Johns Hopkins Hospital for radiation treatments. Here, doctors took samples of her tissue, one from the tumor and another from the healthy tissue nearby without her consent. These samples ended up becoming a major factor in scientific discovery in the medicinal field. These discoveries include finding cures for polio, smallpox and other diseases. Throughout the book, we see how racism/equality, the use of self-profiting, and trustfulness go a long way in the eyes of Henrietta. During Henrietta’s time, equality was not handed out to everyone, especially to those of color. Since Henrietta trusted in the doctors, who worked on her for they “knew” what they were doing, her trust for them backfired when the doctors, more specifically Dr. George Gey, withdrew her cells without her consent or knowledge. This eventually evolved into the doctor’s own profit in the medical field since Henrietta’s cells were still abiding and functioning.
During The 1950s and 1960s, equality for colored people was nonexistent, especially towards health and medical care. The majority of hospitals only ministered to white people and only a certain amount of hospitals treated blacks. One of the most renowned hospitals in the east coast today, Johns Hopkins Hospital was the only hospital in Henrietta’s area to treat the colored. At Johns Hopkins, blacks were treated with all the equipment needed to fulfill their medical needs; however, it was not as sufficient as the whites. They were also not treated as well as the whites. Even though blacks were given treatment, it was far worse than that of the whites due to their race and lack of money to pay for the treatments. In this hospital, “several studies have shown that black patients were treated and hospitalized at later stages of their illnesses than white patients, they received fewer pain medications, and as a result, they had a higher mortality rate” (64). This was exemplified in how the doctors treated Henrietta and her family.
These doctors figured that since the Lacks were a poor, black farming family who did not make as much as a typical white family, they could take advantage and do things without the family’s consent, such as taking samples of Henrietta’s cells without them knowing, even though Henrietta signed a form that stated “I hereby give consent to the staff of the Johns Hopkins Hospital to perform any operative procedures” (31). Also, due to Henrietta trusting the doctors in whatever they did to “help” her, these doctors exploited her by doing what they felt would be self-beneficial towards themselves. These doctors kept Henrietta unaware of the HeLa cells so they could make profits off of it by distributing it to medical centers everywhere. This was not only done by the family’s lack of knowing, but also by Dr. Gey and his drive towards medical success. Doing this not only went to prove that Dr. Gey was a “genius” in discovering this, but it also showed how one could sink so low as to take away one’s tissues without the person knowing. Henrietta’s tumor-filled cells were what was considered “immortal.” This meant that her cells were “growing with mythological intensity” (40). The doctor who examined