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Lacks

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Submitted By MrzwillLuv
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There are many reasons that Henrietta Lacks did not give informed consent. First, the form that Henrietta signed at John Hopkins gave permission for her doctors to “perform any operative procedures…that they deem necessary in the proper surgical care and treatment of _________________,” (Skloot, Immortal, pg. 31). Henrietta’s tissues were taken, but not for the purpose of treating her cancer (as it had already been diagnosed and she was about to begin radium treatments). Second, because of her racial and socio-economic status, Henrietta was vulnerable and may have felt she didn’t have much of a choice when it came to giving consent.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot is about a Southern-Christian African-American woman who has developed a deadly disease, in which she later dies of. What stands out in the book the most is how Mrs. Lacks was treated because of her ethnicity and how Skloot's race played a role in some of the treatment in the book. Reading this, I thought to myself: if Henrietta would have been white in her lifetime, she would have had a better advantage in life. If Skloot would have been African-American she probably would have emphasized racism. If both of their races would have been different, the whole perspective of the book would have changed.

The treatment of African-Americans back in the day was very harsh and cruel. Henrietta Lacks was one of thousands of people that suffered a gruesome disease during a time of racial injustice. "This was the era of Jim Crow— when black people showed up at white only hospitals, the staff was likely to send them away, even if it meant they might die in the parking lot" (Skloot 15). Jim Crow was an era of time that humiliated and degraded blacks of their pride and dignity. During this time, we can assume she received poor medical treatment. If these laws would have been lifted and more peace orientated, Henrietta might be alive today.

Through out the book, there was no secret that Henrietta's treatment was brutally unacceptable in today's society. I think that if she was white her accommodations would have been different. "Henrietta undressed, wrapped herself in a starched white hospital gown, and lay down on a wooden exam table, waiting for Howard Jones the gynecologist on duty" (Skloot 15). In that excerpt, Henrietta lays on a hard, uncomfortable wooden table. Most likely at the hospitals for whites they would have nicer furniture. The overall treatment of Henrietta could have improved if she was white.
The tragedy is Henrietta was married, and had five children, which the oldest, Elsie was mute and deaf. She was placed in an institution, where she later died. The other children were raised in poverty by their father, who had a third grade education. No one in the family has received any compensation for Henrietta’s cells. The irony of the story is that Henrietta’s family is too poor to afford health insurance, and so has largely been unable to benefit from medical advances Henrietta’s cells have occasioned, or if they have, only at great cost. No one in the family was even aware that her cells were being used in this way until the 1970’s when they were told by chance. Scientist had in fact, as is standard ethical practice, tried to sever Henrietta’s family members to ask for more tissue samples.

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