Why is the Story of Henrietta Lacks Important?

Subject: Health Care
Type: Argumentative Essay
Pages: 3
Word count: 800
Topics: HIV, Cancer, Disease, Medicine

The world of medicine has advanced greatly, thanks to the contribution of Henrietta Lacks. It is significant to acknowledge that Lacks was a cervical cancer patient whose cells were used in the developing of different solving different medical complexities. The medical advancements have been used to understand cancer, HIV/AIDS, gene mapping, developing the polio vaccine as we as cloning (Moorhead). In the 1940s, it was evident that the medical researchers did not need the consent of the patients to obtain bio-specimens and apply them in tests that would unearth the today vaccines, curative and the understanding of the complexities that human beings suffer from. The same case happened with Henrietta Lacks. In this discussion, the importance of Henrietta Lacks story regarding the HeLa cells and the breakthrough that researchers have achieved today due to her cells extraction is explored.

Primarily, scientists and the world of medicine branded Henrietta Lacks the mother of medicine. Despite dying of cervical cancer at 31 years in 1951, her story remains significant since cells from her tumor were extracted and thus have made medical researchers to understand and advance in the fight against diseases (Moorhead). The cells, well-known as HeLa cells, were taken from the tumor while undergoing surgery and subjected to different tests.  Out of the tests, the scientists managed, for the first time, to create a cell-line that was continuous which would be termed as immortal cells. Seemingly, the previous they had done on normal cells of different patients ended up dying but for Henrietta Lacks cells displayed a continuous reproduction. 

Get your paper done on time by an expert in your field.
plagiarism free

The fact that HeLa cells continued to reproduce meant that medical practitioners had the chance to experiment on cell division outside the human body (Moorhead). In this way, the story of Henrietta Lacks provided an account of crucial medical information achieved through experiments which had been categorized as impossible. Through the acquisition of the HeLa cells, doctors found and still find it possible to expose the cells to varying conditions and viruses. The behavior of these cells under these conditions and viruses are recorded. The observations made from these experiments help in gaining new pieces of knowledge in the field of medicine. 

Since the story regards the discovery and the importance of the HeLa cells that are immortal and can live, reproduce outside the human body, doctors have managed to carry out experiments ethically. It would be an unethical practice to carry out experiments on human bodies that are alive since this would be exposing them to suffering and torture (Hudson & Collins, 141). However, despite having not obtained Henrietta Lacks consent regarding the use of her cells in experiments; it is evident that the sacrifice they made has paid off. The story in one way is an acknowledgement to Henrietta Lacks. As such, the is significant to note that the HeLa cells, the experiments tools, medicine and the knowledge gathered has served the purpose of the common good. 

On the other hand, the obtaining of HeLa cells to advance medical science was done in an unethical manner. Primarily, the story unearths the fact that she was not informed and her family still lived in poor health conditions even after doctors acknowledging that her contribution was and remains vital. In this case, the story helps in the questioning of the legal aspects of using bio-specimen of patients without their consent and any appreciation being extended to them (Hudson & Collins, 142). The fact that the story highlights that the medical treatments from HeLa cells were from a poor woman raises questions about the availability and affordability of the medicine.

Evidently, the medical advancements from HeLa cells were available to people that would afford medical insurance. Unfortunately families that were impoverished such as Henrietta Lacks were not in this category. Similarly, some pharmaceutical companies and people have since become rich due to a poor woman’s contribution with no penny being given to the poor or her descendants who have since had misfortunes and plummeted. With all the misfortunes and suffering the family have faced, it is unfortunate to note that none of them had medical insurance cover especially her children that suffered from developmental problems, poor health, bad heart, arthritis, nerve deafness as well as depression. Apparently, the story has been vital in raising questions regarding the people whose bio-specimen are used and it has created awareness so that their health is improved as a an appreciation besides obtaining the consent. Therefore, the story will remain significant since the HeLa cells are still used in experiments and the development of medical tools, knowledge and medicine.

Did you like this sample?
  1. Hudson, K. L., & Collins, F. S. (2013). Biospecimen policy: Family matters. Nature, 500(7461), 141-142.
  2. Moorhead Joanna. “Henrietta Lacks: The Mother of Modern Medicine.” The Guadian 23 June 2010. 
Related topics
More samples
Related Essays