Essays on Henrietta Lacks

Essays on Henrietta Lacks

Henrietta Lacks, an extremely important woman in Medical history. Mostly Known for the polio vaccine developed after testing it on her cells. Henrietta Lacks is also known for her cells’ infinite reproduction. People who have never heard of Henrietta Lacks may not understand why she is such an important person, but once you learn a few things about her one will become more and more interested in the topic.

Henrietta Lacks was born on August 1, 1920 in Roanoke, Virginia. She was the mother of five children, having her first child at the very young age of 14 years old. Henrietta married David Lacks who was her cousin in 1941 and they moved to Maryland not long after marriage. After living in Maryland for around 10 years Henrietta went to John Hopkins Hospital due to unusual pain and bleeding and was diagnosed with cervical cancer by Dr. Howard Jones. The doctors cut out two pieces of the tumor and kept it without her knowing and saved it for testing. Henrietta was diagnosed on January 29, 1951, and died on October 4, 1951, at the very lung age of 31 years old. Henrietta’s cancer cells that were removed for sampling were the only cells that could survive on their own more than a few days and were tested in the lab of Dr. George Otto Gey where he made a strand of cells named HeLa. HeLa has been used in many medical breakthroughs and aided multiple doctors in finding cures for different diseases across the world. HeLa today has over 10,000 different patents and has helped doctors test human sensitivity of cells and other tissues and how they react to different medications and treatments.

Henrietta’s story provoked questions about race, ethics, and genetics. It described the unethical history of scientific “experimentation on African Americans, the beginning of bioethics, and the legal battles over who owns or controls genetic material. It was not ethical for researchers to take Henrietta Lacks’ cells without the family’s informed consent (permission) because the family was not aware of the scientific or financial advancements that could have been made by using these cells. In fact, in the past, the media and scientific institutions had been very rude and inconsiderate towards the Lacks family, and the family may have refused consent anyway. The family should have been compensated financially and emotionally for their pain and suffering because it was Henrietta’s cells that were being used to investigate and further scientific advancements dealing with cancer. The scientists were legally and ethically wrong by hiding their research from the Lacks family.

Something that people often wonder is if should the Lacks family be compensated. Everyone has their personal opinion on whether the Lacks family should be compensated or not. Henrietta’s family believes that they should be compensated for the great medical strides made with the HeLa cells. According to the Washington Post, “Hopkins officials said in a statement that when the cells were taken there was no established practice for informing or obtaining consent from cell or tissue donors”. Since at the time it was not necessary to inform or obtain consent, the lack of family should not be compensated. Laws were different back in those days than they are now. The Lacks family wants compensation but has no reason to get any.

Henrietta Lacks’s cells that were used made her famous around the world. In Lack’s treatment for cancer, immoral human cells were discovered. In the early 11980s German virologist Harald Zur Hausen discovered her cells and found the gene that concealed tumors.

The HPV-18 killed Lacks.

When Lacks died, polio was severely dangerous. Her cells later gave assistance to those with the disease. These reproducing cells were nearly impossible to kill. In 1960, the cells were used in mice cells to create human-animal cells. Throughout the year's research used her cells on HIV and mumps. They saw that the type of white blood cells called T cells showed types of protein called CD4. HIV was used with Henrietta’s cells.

Henrietta Lacks made a huge impact on the scientific world in life and death. Her cells made it possible for medical teams to learn all about HeLa cells. She suffered so much pain while researchers used her diseased cancerous body to test for DNA advancements. Because she was a poor black woman, she and her family were taken advantage of as the doctors took her cells without permission. During the duration of her life and even after her death, scientists and researchers continued to use her illness and medical records. The world of science prospered and made substantial amounts of money, while the family was given no financial compensation. According to Robert Stevenson, 'Cultures, supposedly of tissue such as breast cancer or mouse, proved to be HeLa cells'. Scientists don't like to think of HeLa cells as being little bits of Henrietta because it's much easier to do science when you dissociate your materials from the people they come from' (Hamilton). HeLa cells are responsible for creating curing vaccines for numerous diseases. Henrietta’s death sustained life for the suffering and made researchers millions, but her family was only left with loving memories.

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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Narrative Essay

In Rebecca Skloot’s novel The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks many ethical questions are raised regarding the practices used to collect and distribute Henrietta’s cells. These practices led to emotional challenges faced by each of Henrietta’s family members and close friends. These ethical issues combined …

CancerHenrietta LacksLIFE
Words 493
Pages 2
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Persuasive Essay

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Introduction The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is written by Rebecca Skloot, who is an award winning science writer. The story is of a young black women, Henrietta Lacks, who was diagnosed with cancer in 1951, at the John …

Henrietta Lacks
Words 595
Pages 3
Rebbecca Skloot Henrietta Lacks

In Rebecca Skloot’s “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” the ethical issue of the hospital taking Henrietta Lack’s cells seems be a very major deal and plays an important role throughout the entire book. The books starts off telling you of Mrs. Lacks’ life struggles …

BiologyHenrietta LacksMedicine
Words 900
Pages 4
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Henrietta Lacks

The characters from the book, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” become attached to objects that are meaningful to them. It is noticed that a certain object had a significant meaning by analyzing the scene and the character. Dr. Geys assistant, Mary described Henrietta Lacks …

Henrietta Lacks
Words 270
Pages 2
Contribute Of Henrietta Lacks In Gene Mapping

Henrietta Lacks Cells taken from a young African American woman in 1951 helped scientists cure polio. Cells from the same woman contributed to scientific advantages in cancer, gene mapping, and even the atom bomb. The mother of five did not life to know her cells …

BiologyHenrietta LacksMedicine
Words 898
Pages 4
Rebecca Skloot’s story

Rebecca Skloot’s story, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, is based on Henrietta and her family. In order to learn about the indescribable Henrietta Lacks, Skloot as a result, wrote this biography on her. Skloot wanted to further her study about the Lacks family in …

Health CareHenrietta LacksMedicine
Words 276
Pages 2

Find extra essay topics on Essays on Henrietta Lacks by our writers.

Henrietta Lacks was an African-American woman whose cancer cells are the source of the HeLa cell line, the first immortalized human cell line and one of the most important cell lines in medical research.

August 1, 1920 , Roanoke, VA


October 4, 1951, The Johns Hopkins Hospital , Balti, MD


David Lacks (m. 1941–1951)


Deborah Lacks, Elsie Lacks, Zakariyya Bari Abdul Rahman, David Lacks, Jr., Lawrence Lacks


Gladys Pleasant Lacks, Lillian Pleasant, Lawrence Pleasant, John Randall II, Henry Pleasant

Full name

Loretta Pleasant

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