Henritta Lacks Paper

The “immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” tells a fascinating story of a sample of cells that forever changed the landscape of scientific research. The book tells the story of the family related to Henrietta Lacks. The book touches on the doctor and patient relationship. Henrietta Lacks cells (“also known as HeLa”) became involved in bringing informed consent to the research field. The patient didn’t always know what the doctor was doing to them. The doctor should always inform the subject of what they are doing and the purpose before the subject can consent.

Informed consent is a legal procedure to ensure that a patient or client knows all of the risks and costs involved in a treatment. Up to 1947, the thought of informed consent hadn’t even crossed anyone’s mind. In 1947, the Nuremberg trials were held wherein 7 Nazi scientist were convicted of conducting unthinkable tests on Jewish subjects. This marked the first time informed consent entered anyone’s conscience. It still wasn’t law. It was just an ethical code which had no legal bindings.

Then ten years later, when scientist Southman was injecting HeLa into patients’ bodies without telling them how dangerous it was and some of them died and an investigation ensued. This caused a division between people and doctors. Some doctors decided against informed consent because it would interfere with their research practices. There was great fear amongst the African American community about doctors kidnapping them and doing all sorts of wild tests on them. There was some truth to these apprehensions.

Doctors would regularly test on African Americans with consent. In the book, when the doctors ask Day if they can do an autopsy they didn’t give him the whole details. But that wasn’t the rule back in those times. The problem with explaining the details to people is that they simply wouldn’t understand what the doctor was talking about. The patient had no clue what a cell was. So rather than explain what they were doing in detail they would just tell that it would benefit their children. This is wrong, doctors shouldn’t take the easy way out.

They should inform their patients of the extent of their intentions. The doctors would prey on the black community’s ignorance in the medical field. The doctors should have just told them their intentions. In today’s atmosphere, the rights of patients are more protected than they were in the 1950s. Doctors now have a legal and ethical duty to inform patients in all areas. Therefore, more information is available to patients so they are able to make intelligent and informed decisions on their medical treatment and use of their tissue, cells or organs.

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