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PHIL 103 Ethics

Published : 23-Sep,2021  |  Views : 10


The film "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks"

What is your reaction to the story and how Henrietta Lacks' cells became the HeLa cell line?


The film “The immortal life of Henrietta lacks” is the biopic of Henrietta Lacks’ life and a massive contribution in the scientific contribution. The film has been made on the concepts taken from the book “The immortal life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot, who revealed the unethical scientific research with 31 years, old Henrietta’s cancer cells (Skloot, 2011). Skloot was curious about revealing the actual story behind the HeLa cells and she attempted to find and establish relationship with the Lacks’ family. Henrieta lacks died on 1951, suffering from cervical cancer at the age of 31 and left over her 5 young children, all of whom were abused by the extended family, who was allowed by David, Henrietta’s husband to take care of the children. Henrietta’s cells were used to create the first human immortal cell line. Henrietta’s The In the film, the unethical incidences happened with the Lacks family were revealed.

Henrietta’s cells from the cervical tumor were isolated and cultured in laboratory by the researcher George Gey at Hopskin. However, the scientific procedures were done without informing the patient or taking consent from her or her family. In one hand, scientists benefited a lot from Henrietta’s cells, but could not able to save her. Using human subject has always been a significant ethical issue; in this case the issue more severe as the researcher didn’t even bother to inform the patient about the major invention done from her contribution, neither offered any financial support (Skloot, 2011). On the other hand, the Lacks family was living in poverty and being abused by the society as well as health care worker. For instance, her elder daughter Elsie was suffering from congenital syphilis, she was abused and died at Crownsville Hospital. Skloot helped the family to know about their mother’s story.

Watching the film, I was shocked to see he researcher’s misconduct, he didn’t focused upon the patient, rather focused on the benefit of his own research. However, besides the researcher’s unethical conduct, the medical team in the lab, who knew about the contribution of Henrietta, did not attempt to inform her family or reward the family for the major contribution in scientific research. It also showed social discrimination. On the other hand, her daughter Elsie also experienced health care abuse, which is also unethical (Khan, 2011). The rest of the family suffered from domestic violence; however they did not get any financial or social support to mitigate these issues. Skloot attempted to help the family from personal level, showing her kindness and respect towards the victim and her family.


Khan, F. A. (2011). The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. The Journal of IMA, 43(2), 93.

Skloot, R. (2011). The immortal life of Henrietta Lacks. Broadway Books.

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