All posts by snehamichaela

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks: Part 4

  • What did you think about the reading?

I really enjoyed how Rebecca Skloot put together the ending of this book. It gives the reader (or at least me) some hope for Henrietta’s family. However, it leaves open the questions that still haven’t been answered and probably won’t be anytime soon. Overall, I really enjoyed the book and would read it again. It really made several sides come together and explained the issue fully.

  • What did you learn?

I’m going to focus on the afterword mostly here. First of all, I’m glad Henrietta’s family finally came to terms with the whole situation. All they want now is for their mother to be recognized for her contribution to science. That is a wonderful goal. Also, they don’t want to limit science by even trying to control HeLa cells (if they even could) which I think is very understanding. However, what really gets me thinking is the fact that there are still no absolute laws on tissue research from biopsies or procedures. If the tissue are being biopsied strictly for research, there are several procedures. However, many regular patients with medical procedures are not being told their tissues are held indefinitely in warehouses. They could be used for research and they could not. Recently, more and more people are finding out about this and are indignant that they aren’t in control of these parts of their body. But the law doesn’t state that they are actually in control of them. Yes, with DNA technology, you could trace that tissue back to the donor, and that could be seen as an invasion of privacy. However, without research on these tissues, many scientific discoveries couldn’t have been made. Which leads us back to a major question. Does the end really justify the means? There is no clear answer yet, and I don’t see one coming anytime soon. Especially since scientific research now is incredibly commercial. Many research laboratories are interested in protecting patents and their discoveries. On one hand, this may limit information to other scientists and to the public. Also, they might create monopolies, as explained in the afterword. On the other hand, it increases the market for scientific research. The matter is still very sensitive.

  • What questions do you still have?

Overall, I have many questions that remain unanswered. Is research on tissues from regular procedures morally right if the patient has no idea it is happening? Should the people be kept in the dark about this so scientific research can continue as always? Or should they be informed fully about it and be allowed to take their own decisions?