The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Questions and Answers
by Rebecca Skloot

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks book cover
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How do religion and science clash in The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks?  

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The huge issue of ethics in biomedical research, including the unauthorized removal and use of human tissue, is one of the primary themes of the book. Those issues are brought home in many of the interactions the author had with members of Henrietta Lacks’ family.

While the theme of ethical conflicts runs through the book, it is not always directly connected to religion per se. Chapter 17, especially deals with ethics, for the unauthorized use of diseased tissue, including the injection of cancer cells into unknowing patients. The author traces such procedures back to Nazi experiments on Jewish prisoners. It also follows these types of procedures in the U.S. after the war in light of the Nuremberg Code and the Hippocratic Oath. These developments and related lawsuits helped make informed consent a standard legal requirement.

Within the Lacks extended family, one of Henrietta’s sons-in-law, James Pullum, is a preacher, and the family members are Christians. Their concern after finding...

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