Archive for The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

“You leave that stuff up to God”

Henrietta’s youngest son, Zakariyya, resents what happened to his mother and his family. His fury is based on the fact that the doctors that took his mother’s cells reproduced them and sold them, making millions of dollars. And yet, Zakariyya’s own family can’t afford to see a doctor themselves. You’d assume that at least some portion of the profit reaped from Henrietta’s cells, “the most important things that happened to medicine in the last hundred years”, would go to her family, but no. ”They lied to us for twenty-five years, kept them cells from us…Them cells was stolen!” Zakariyya said.

“What he did was wrong! Dead wrong! You leave that stuff up to God. People say maybe them takin her cells and makin them forever to create medicines was what God wanted. But I don’t think so.” (text to itself)

This presents interesting and controversial questions:

Is science proof of lack of faith in God?

Does God want us to clone human beings and become sorts of gods ourselves?

Does God exist at all?

(text to world)

My personal belief is that we were born with a divine curiosity. It is a natural instinct to be attracted to learning and gaining more knowledge about the world around us. The HeLa cells provided a great opportunity for wonderfully discoveries that improve our lives today, everyday; however, deceiving the Lacks’ family and stealing Henrietta’s cells without her consent was immoral and shameful for science. (text to self)


Published in: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks on January 5, 2012 at6:15 am Comments (4)

Science + Ethics = Bioethics

In The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, the scientific code of conduct is questioned, challenged, and condemned. The term “bioethics” concerns the ethical questions that arise in life sciences, biotechnology, medicine, etc. (text to world) The picture below depicts how scientific discoveries are advancing much faster than the ethics that should parallel the progression of new knowledge. This is a perfect example of Henrietta Lacks’ story because it was ethically wrong to steal her cells without her consent, but it presented great opportunity for science that led to developing “drugs to help treat herpes, leukemia, influenza, hemophilia, and Parkinson’s disease” (Skloot, 4). (text to text) In fact, Rebecca Sloot’s professor Defler said “Henrietta’s cells were one of the most important things that happened to medicine in the last hundred years”. (text to itself) However, Deborah would rather have her mother back.

Racial Experimentation

Throughout the novel, a motif of the racial injustices pervades the story. Deborah says “‘Everybody always say Hopkins took black folks and experiment on them in the basement over there. Nobody could prove it so I never did believe it really. But when I found out about my mother cells, I didn’t know what to think expect maybe all that stuff about them experimentin on people is true’” (Skloot, 236). (text to itself). This reminded me of the terrors that minority ethnic groups suffered in Holocaust concentration camps, specifically Dr. Mengele.

This link is an informational page about the Nazi Doctors and the atrocities they committed in the name of “science”. (text to world)

The Nazi Doctors (text to text)

African Americans have also been used for “Frankensteinian experimentation”, which is more specifically outlined in the article linked below.

Scientific Racism: African Americans (text to text)

Reading the Nazi Doctors article brought tears of grief and lamentation to my eyes. It pains my heart and soul that human beings contain the perversity to inflict such a monstrous degree of pain and suffering to each other. (text to self)


What’s in a Name?

Throughout my life, there have been very few people I’ve met that have shared my namesake. It’s always been “Oh my mother’s name is Elsie” or “My grandma’s name is Elsie”. This has always made me felt like I have an old lady’s name. The character named Elsie in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks lives in the 1940′s; therefore, my theory of the ancient name I was given is proved even further. (text to self)

In fact, the screen shot below is a result from a Google search of “famous Elsies”. I guess my pathway to fame is to become a Grandma and make delicious pies of sorts.


You’re Writing a Book about Cells?!? Really?

 The picture above is of Human Cervical Adenocarcinoma Cells from the HeLa line.

Rebecca Skloot on The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The above link is a YouTube video that completely related to my perspective on the book before I actually read it. Although my major is biotechnology, I honestly have a strong aversion to science, and reading a book about cells was dead last on my list of things to do over winter break. However, the detailed character descriptions helped me attach to Henrietta and her daughter Deborah, and their amazing story. The racist motif of the book also intrigued me; I couldn’t believe how cruel America, seemingly such a great country to live in, was to its citizens in such recent history. (text to self, text to world).


Published in: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks on January 2, 2012 at10:18 pm Comments (0)

Ignorance is Bliss

In chapter 8 “A Miserable Specimen”, the practice of “benevolent deception” is introduced. Rebecca Skloot explains this was when “doctors often withheld even the most fundamental information from their patients…They believed it was best not to confuse or upset patients with frightening terms they might not understand, like cancer” (Skloot, 63). This is a perfect embodiment of the common saying “Ignorance is bliss”. Sometimes people ignore reality in order to protect themselves from pain. In fact, denial is the first stage of grief and a common defense mechanism. (text to world)

This picture depicts the saying “Ignorance is bliss”. It’s kind of hilarious because Luke and Leia were twins and here they are almost kissing because they didn’t know they were related by blood. (text to text)