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

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What ethical issues do we see in "Part Two" of Rebecca Skloot's The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks?

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One of the major ethical issues raised by part two of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is who should own and profit from a person's DNA. When the HeLa cell line was created, it was in a not-for-profit lab at first. Eventually, however, it was sold to a company that could create more of themand sold them for profit. They didn't have the right to sell Henrietta's cells; no one from her family gave them that permission and certainly Henrietta herself didn't. Though courts have ruled that scientists have the right to create immortal cell lines, that doesn't mean that it's ethical. The book asks whether people should have the right to grant access to their own bodies and to profit from medical advances that come from them.

Another ethical issue is what should happen to the family of a person whose body helps create major scientific advances. While the HeLa cells helped scientists cure diseases and make pharmaceutical companies lots of money, Henrietta's family was suffering from poverty...

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