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

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks book cover
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What lessons do we learn from the book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks?

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Madeleine Wells eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Hello! You asked about what we can learn from The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks. Henrietta Lacks was an African-American woman who died from cervical cancer in 1951. Before she died, her doctor cut out a small portion of her cancerous cells without her knowledge. The cells were given to Dr. George Gey, the head of tissue research at Johns Hopkins Hospital. The HeLa cell line is the first immortal cell line ever grown in culture, and today, it is used in laboratories all over the world for the purposes of medical research. Some of the things we learn from the book:

1) The concept of patients' rights and informed consent was not heard of in the 1950s. The HeLa cell line inspires us to open up an honest conversation about those rights today. Henrietta's medical records were actually published without her family's permission at one point. Today, it is important to know that patients do have certain rights when it comes to their medical records, yet, as of the book's writing, informed...

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