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

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks book cover
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As noted by Skloot, “For the most part, the dead do not have the same right to privacy enjoyed by the living”. One general exception to that rule is HIPPA-was there HIPPA violations done to Henrietta Lacks and her family? What are some more specific violations and the impact of the ramifications of these violations.

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HIPPA, or Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, was not in place during Lacks' lifetime. Today, however, HIPPA would protect Lacks and her family against the unauthorized use of her health information. HIPPA prohibits the use of a patient's health information without his or her consent. Doctors' offices are required to disclose how exactly they will be using a patient's health history. 

In Lacks' case, doctors used her cells without her permission or knowledge for medical experimentation. What was particularly shocking to Lacks' family, who discovered decades later that Henrietta's cells had been used for medical research, was that the medical industry had been profiting from her cells without the family's knowledge. They felt taken advantage of.

In chapter eight, Skloots' book documents the ways that one of the microbiologists claimed that he received verbal confirmation from Henrietta that were cells were being used for research. Today, any patient authorization for that sort of research would be recorded in writing.

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