Nursing Essay on Reflections on “Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”

Reflections on “Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”

Reading the book “immortal life of Henrietta Lacks,” I am able to understand and reflect on the different aspects revealed on life situations. Most importantly, I find the book relevant in understanding science and dealing with ethical issues in medicine. The book provides relevant arguments on the aspects of race and class, as they affect medical research.  In spite of having cervical cancer, Henrietta Lack’s cells were harvested without her mutual consent. I released that it is important to obtain consent from people before conducting medical research. Henrietta Lack was affected by the situation in her entire life. Thus, it is important to follow all ethical guidelines in conducting any medical research work on people as participants. As an African American, her cells were considered relevant for conducting study on various medical aspects. For instance, her cells have helped in developing drugs for leukemia, influenza, and herpes (Skloot & Turpin, 2010). 

Recently, the cells were used in conducting study on the digestion to mosquito mating. From the book, it is understandable that medical research requires body cells from certain people in the society. It is important to allow people to volunteer towards certain course. Since, it is very important in their life to promote scientific and medical research.   In addition, I would encourage on the need to seek for personal and family approval by scientists and researchers seeking publicizing their personal medical aspects. For instance, recently, scientists revealed the identity of Henrietta Lack’s genome without permission. The book discusses about the significant aspects of violation of privacy and intellectual rights.

Another relevant reflection from the book that is hat family consultation is importance in conducting scientific research on their person’s body.  This helps to handle the implications and issues related to privacy.  The HeLa cells were used without the consultations of the family. This is a violation of relevant morals and ethics in the society. I believe that proper regulations and guidelines should be put in place to ensure that the family is involved.  In the case of racism, I can observe that the book illustrates that the scientific researchers were targeted to certain races. During the 1950s, Henrietta Lacks seems to be targeted for the scientific studies. The scientists took samples from their families I without their consent.  Later, in 1970s, scientists also took samples from their children.  The incident of two different periods reveals that the medical research was racial. This explains the period of segregation in which the scientists viewed the black people as objects.

 By 1970s, the laws are changed. However, the family of Henrietta Lacks was segregated for the medical research work. I can argue that if they were whites, they would have received special treatment. This reveals the increased level of segregation in the U.S in the late 1970s.  In addition, I see the actions of the scientists to be malicious by failing to inform the family on their intentions with the cell samples.  The family was not aware of the scientist’s intentions with their body and cell samples.  The book reveals that the cells of the family have been used in more than 7,000 studies in medical research.  I believe the book tackles many controversial issues affecting medical research in the scientific world. Most of scientific research work has been blamed for ethical and moral problems. 

 Based on the reflections of the book, I have the following questions

  1. Are there strict guidelines and regulations in the conduction of scientific studies in medical research?
  2.  What is the current trend of ethical and moral regulations in the scientific work today?


Skloot, R., & Turpin, B. (2010). The immortal life of Henrietta Lacks. New York: Broadway  Books.