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“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot

According to the book “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks’ by Rebecca Skloot” Henrietta lacks who was a poor lady that was serving in a southern tobacco farm. Here she served as a farmer just like her slave ancestors. On Henrietta being diagnosed with cancer, shortly after her death the tumor was taken to the scientist for examination and to be used in research in the lab. This is when they noticed the behavior of the cells after cell division. They still lived on and grew, a thing they had not seen before with others cells. Her cells, which were taken without her knowledge (upon her death), she has became one of the most celebrated lady’s in the scientific industry given that her cells were and are still being used to date. Hers were the first “immortal” human cells grown in culture which are still alive today (Bittner and Williamson 35). Scientists who referred Henrietta Lacks as “HeLa” had piled her cells that had ever been grown onto scale; they can weigh more than 50 million metric tons like ”a hundred Empire State Buildings” (Berczuk and Appleton 312). Subsequent to her death after struggling with cancer her cells that turned to be immortal, and have since then been used in the exploration of the most likely ways of attaining its cure. Her cells have had a significant and invaluable donation to the growth of all this medical study all the way from then up-to-date.

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These ‘special’ cells that have possessed the nature to be immortal have been alive though she has been dead for more than sixty years, they have been most vital tools in medicine to uncover secrets of cancer, viruses the atom and also in developing the vaccine for polio and countless other scientific pursuits. The cells have also been of great help in the development of in vitro fertilization, human and organ biotechnology-cloning, as well as gene mapping; that have massively been purchased and sold in the range of the billions (Bittner and Williamson 31).

Despite the fact that Henrietta’s cells are known to be the most celebrated and the most used throughout the realms of medical research and technology, she still remains unknown while she lays buried in a practically unmarked grave. However, with Rebecca Skloot a science journalist coming into the mix of Henrietta’s life’s history she takes us in an extraordinary journey all the from the “tinted” theory of the ward of John Hopkins Hospital about Henrietta’s cells to the lad freezers that are full of HeLa’s Cells: from the small town that Henrietta was raised and the dying home town to East Baltimore where her children battle with questions and struggles with the theory they hear about the legacy of her mother’s cells (Bittner and Williamson 27). The story of Skloot merges the pas life of an naïve young black woman from the edges of a petite isolated town to the legacy she has left today in the medical industry through the use of her cells and the struggle her family is going through to achieve the identity of her cells.

Skloot, being a well known journalist, makes a remarkable debut with this multifaceted tale about “faith in people on the development of research medicine… journalism, and the value of family ties” (Berczuk and Appleton 321). All this happens after her short life of about three decades. Skloot expressively portrays the devastating effects of the demise of Henrietta and the eventual significance of her cells to her family and friends. With Skloot aggressiveness in publishing the book and giving detailed information about how the great help that Henrietta’s cell have influenced in many discoveries in the medicine domain, this has gone a long way to enlighten the family (Berczuk and Appleton 323).

Skloot has brought out the issue concerning racism and discrimination beautifully, where the family could not get any law to support when they decided to get legal help for the recognition of their mother’s cell and to get financial support. This story of Henrietta attests the blacks in America have from the ages been measured as the second tribe, the low rated natives of the land, which led to the ‘mighty’ to unfairly oppress them. In a major ways they exploit their rights and take advantage of their privileges to benefits themselves. This has clearly been heighten in the book as the readers are shown how the pharmaceuticals and the biochemical industry have made wealth and riches through this woman’s cell yet the family lives in poverty to appoint they cannot pay their own medical bill nor pay medical insurance leaving them with no help ‘sister Elsie died at the age of fifteen due to lack proper medical care’. All this and more happens with the full knowledge of the experts’ of the families position who practically live a humble life of picking coffee at launch, yet they still make billion of money through the selling of her cells.

With the family learning about the “immortal” cell of her Mother over two decades after her death, when the story uncovered became a devastating chronicle to learn. The medical experts initially started reaching out to Henrietta family, using the husband and her children for more research and study without their acquainted sanction. The use of these cells had yield a multi-million biotechnology diligence and the family never benefited from the proceeds at all. Rebecca Skloot so radiantly explains, the tale that follows the Lacks family from the past to the present is well linked to the connections of the dark past of experimentation on blacks, the origin of bioethics, and the legal conflict over whether we have power over the stuff we are born with.

One other central theme in Skloot’s story is inherent in the livelihoods and total disregard that the Lack family has been forced to live under, perpetually surviving under near-poverty even though their mother is “a hero of the medical world” (Skloot 196). The family has endured huge mental anguish for very many years, being misunderstood by the surrounding and the entire medical fraternity for their claim over their mother’s recognition. Skloot strenuously and persuasively continues to tells the fascinating, real-life story of a family wronged, and one that has been covered under the guises of fear and evasion. Little had been explained to the Lock family members about the nature of the replication of their mother’s cells but, with wild assumptions, conjectures and suppositions, they discover that she is ‘still alive’ in the form of cells, their fear of the unknown leading to great hurt and serious mental illnesses (Starr and McMillan 52).

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The task at hand is to persuade the readers that the “immortal cells” of Henrietta Lacks have not only been taken against her will but also that big pharmaceutical and bio-technology firms are raking in huge sums of money from their “harvested” cells is one that is embodied in disbelief and self-realizing experiences. Skloot calls attention to the three arenas that are used for scientific inquiry and the presentation of evidence. Together with all the ethical issues that are incorporated in her case, there are also the issues of medical malpractice in that the doctors at that time did not get the permission that was necessary before taking cells from the patient. During the period of diagnosis of the disease ailing Henrietta, tissue cells from her tumor were collected to form a culture in the lab and as it was later discovered, they could be replicated in a test tube with a “mythology of intensity….typically doubling after every twenty four hours” (Starr and McMillan 47). As she persuasively re-tells the story, she makes it hard to imagine that these cells, harvested decades ago from an ailing mother, are still alive today, and making some big corporations rich and famous.

However, the central theme in Skloot’s story is inherent in the livelihoods and total disregard that the Lack family has been forced to live under, perpetually surviving under near-poverty even though their mother is “a hero of the medical world” (Skloot 196). The family has endured huge mental anguish for very many years, being misunderstood by the surrounding and the entire medical fraternity for their claim over their mother’s recognition. Skloot strenuously and persuasively continues to tell the fascinating, real-life story of a family wronged, and one that has been covered under the guises of fear and evasion. Little had been explained to the Lock family members about the nature of the replication of their mother’s cells but, with wild assumptions, conjectures and suppositions, they discover that she is ‘still alive’ in the form of cells, their fear of the unknown leading to great hurt and serious mental illnesses (Starr and McMillan 52). Alongside this is the common feeling by the family members that they have been wrongfully conned; with regards to the fact that the cells from Henrietta were taken from her body without her, or any of the family members’ consent, and much research and financial gain has been collected thus far without any recognition or kickbacks (Bittner and Williamson 38). Additionally, in perhaps the most fascinatingly disturbing way, racism and social segregation with regards to ethnicity and financial capability emerges as an issue, not only causing the family much devastation but also making the reader question the candor of the medical research facilities. In this regards, it presents the irony of a situation where the family receives no financial aid from the research institutions in order to, at the very least, cover the medical costs of their mother while her cells make it possible to carry out a wide range of research, raking in millions of dollars in profits and returns (Galorath 281).

It is a little wonder that they are both angry and confused with regards to the duplicity of the medical research system, one that has evidently moved from benevolence into the outright declaration that the family has no legal rights over the body of their relative once life is gone, allowing the HeLa cells to be available for sale at $167 every time (Galorath 281). Skloot’s outright persuasion outlines the rough injustice that is felt by the family, clearly detailing their distress in their own words in order to get the desired effect. Her journey with Henrietta’s daughter, Deborah, to the Negro Insane Hospital is particularly moving, making it hard not only to believe but to comprehend.

With the scientist and all other related medical practitioners benefiting from Henrietta, they would not jeopardize all that came with the research by going public about the aid of these cells in the faculty and neither would the true explanation of her death be revealed. As the experts make their enormous discovery and immense progress is made in medicine nothing more matters. Skloot evidently demonstrates to the readers how life can be inequitable. Some people will get anything they desire going to the extent of getting what does not even belong to them and enriching themselves, while the rest cannot acquire what is rightfully theirs (Galorath 281). A lot of discrimination is seen also from her race. When she was alive she did not gain from herself off the cells and neither can her children benefit financially or at least the recognition of her death.

Henrietta’s sacrifice in the medical field and medical research progress her cells are helping people with different ailments today and will be there in the generations to come. Well with all this good things coming with her name it is only fair and reasonable to say the least to appreciate her and recognize her family the least and allow them have a regular life with some proceeds from the millions the pharmaceutical are making. With a lot of gratitude the author’s narrative ability helps the reader familiarizes with a tale that one experiences rather than interpret. However, with Henrietta being dead in natural life the only trace of her memories will be through the recognition of the work of her cell and like her cells allow her name as well to be immortal, for generations and generations to learn about her.

Works cited

Berczuk, Stephen and Brian Appleton. Biological cell configuration management patterns: effective collection and practical integration. South Carolina, SC: USA Winthrop University, 2008.

Bittner, Kevin and Spencer Williamson. Managing iterative Cell biology development projects. London, UK: Rutledge, 2008.

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Galorath, David. Cell sizing, estimation, and risk management: when performance is measured performance improves. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill/Irwin Publishing Company, 2007.

Skloot, Rebecca. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. New York, NY: Walter de Gruyter, 2010.

Starr, Cecie and Beverly McMillan. Human Biology. Chicago, IL: Cengage Learning, 2008.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, December 6). “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/the-immortal-life-of-henrietta-lacks-by-rebecca-skloot/

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StudyCorgi. (2021, December 6). “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot. https://studycorgi.com/the-immortal-life-of-henrietta-lacks-by-rebecca-skloot/

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"“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot." StudyCorgi, 6 Dec. 2021, studycorgi.com/the-immortal-life-of-henrietta-lacks-by-rebecca-skloot/.

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StudyCorgi. "“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot." December 6, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/the-immortal-life-of-henrietta-lacks-by-rebecca-skloot/.

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StudyCorgi. 2021. "“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot." December 6, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/the-immortal-life-of-henrietta-lacks-by-rebecca-skloot/.

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