Essay on HeLa Cells

Date:  2021-06-18 10:47:56
4 pages  (873 words)
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HeLa cells refer to an immortal type of cells that multiply at a fast rate and can be stored by freezing them for extended periods of time without spoiling. These are some of the oldest cells that are commonly used by scientists for research. Henrietta Lacks was born on the first day of August, the year nineteen twenty. She is an African American lady whose HeLa cells have helped form a radical improvement in the medical field. It is for this reason that she is much celebrated. Her cells were obtained while she was being treated for the cervical cancer that had developed in her body. The biopsy was performed by doctors in the great hospital of Johns Hopkins. George Otto Gey was the researcher who took her cells and cultured them without permission from her or any family members. These cells were then used to make the HeLa cell line which has been so resourceful and invaluable in the medical research done by scientists. They have been helpful in drug development and even in cloning. They have also contributed a lot to the introduction of the techniques that are used for gene mapping. Her family remained unaware of the existence of the HeLa cells until twenty four years later when information about Lacks HeLa cell line was released to the public by the media. They felt betrayed and experienced a lot of agony as a result of this injustice.

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A conflicting perspective that is sociological exists in this story of Henrietta. What was done to her is a reflection of the unfair system that exists in the society and which is mainly biased against the poor and unprivileged. Strife and tension comes to focus in this type of perspective which comes is made evident in the words of Henriettas daughter who explains the fact that their family cannot afford to pay for hospital bills due to lack of insurance. Lacks family cannot afford to be treated by doctors and this is conflicting because their mother had played a key role in the development of several advancements in the medical field when she provided her HeLa cells. These cells obtained from Lack have generated a lot of money. The fact that the government, doctors and scientists who are the rich in the society have benefited a lot from Lacks cells yet her family have not, shows the unfairness of this case scenario. This conflict therefore, shows the lack of ethics in medicine.

In my opinion, compensation for the HeLa cells should be given to Henrietta Lacks family. It is not fair for the family to suffer because of poverty yet Henrietta made a big investment that can very much sustain them throught life time without having to struggle. The HeLa cells were neither patented by the government nor the Johns Hopkins Hospital. This fact therefore makes these cells the rightful property of the family and hence the need to compensate them. The failure of the government to tell the family of this development makes them guilty of the injustice that was done to them. Since permission was not obtained from Lack or any of her family members, it is necessary that the government grants the Lack family the much needed compensation. This will not remove the pain and the anguish that they have experienced but it will help ease their hardships. Because of the responsibility of John Hopkins Hospital in taking her cells without permission, they should ensure that they provide insurance covers for the whole Lack family that will cater for their medical needs.

So far, compensation has not been granted to the family. However, the National Institute of Health (NIH) has made some effort to involve the Lack family in the management of the HeLa cells. They have been provided with an opportunity to take part in the regulation of release of information concerning the HeLa genome and how people can access it. The organization made an agreement with them that there would be restrictions of who has access the data of the genomic sequence of Henriettas cells. They also promised them that no one would use the cells genome to benefit themselves but that they would be used for the common good of the whole community and world at large. Two members of the family were given an opportunity to work with NIH to review the scientific research that deals with the HeLa cells. Rules were put were in place that requires any researcher who uses this genomic information to add an acknowledgment in their publications that recognizes the family of Henrietta.


Henrietta has impacted a lot of lives. The world would be a very different place without the HeLa cells. Through her, many people suffering from life-threatening diseases like diabetes and blood pressure problems have been saved. Her cells have been used to make drugs that have helped in the cure of these sicknesses. Scientific developments have been achieved because of her cells. Many other inventions and techniques are being developed because of her immortal cells. The medical field should ensure that proper ethical requirements are observed in the case of any research involving human experiments that is being done currently or that will be done in the future.

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