Henrietta Lacks Informed Consent

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Uninformed Consent What person has not been to the doctor and had blood drawn for one test or another? How many people have had a mole removed or had some other tissue taken from their body for any variety of medical testing? Does anyone actually give a second thought to what happens to the blood or tissues after the tests are done? After reading Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, this issue is likely to be pondered. Skloot tells the story of Henrietta Lacks, a thirty-year old African American tobacco farmer and mother of five. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks was diagnosed with cervical cancer. She was treated at Johns Hopkins Hospital where a section of her cancerous tissue was removed and given to a researcher. Although cells…show more content…
As a result, the majority of individuals, after signing an "informed" consent, remain wholly uninformed, and still have absolutely no idea what is to be done with their blood or tissues after they are taken from them (Edwards 641). Although there is a "Common Rule" in place (Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects) requiring informed consent and actually specifying the information it must contain, it only applies to research on humans that is federally funded, and it is ambiguous with regard to whether it applies to excised tissues. Consequently, this issue is in dire need of more regulation to allow individuals to be more informed and to provide some form of…show more content…
Medical science benefitted immeasurably from the conversion of those tissues. Nevertheless, the problem remains that those cells were taken from Henrietta Lacks without her knowledge. Not to mention, Henrietta’s family suffered greatly when learning what had happened to a piece of her, and in the end, that suffering was avoidable. In light of the fact that by all accounts, Henrietta was a kind woman who spent her life caring for people, had the doctors approached her and asked for a tissue sample for research, Henrietta surely would have consented. In that case, her family would have known and been spared the shock of all the misunderstandings in later years. Granted, it is possible she would not have consented, and who knows where medical science would be in that case? Admittedly, it could be far less advanced, but then again, maybe other cells would have come along that researchers could have used. Ultimately, there is no way to know the answer for sure. In any event, the ends, in this case, do not justify the means. Everyone has the right to be informed and make decisions about what is done with one’s own body. After all, property rights have always been fundamental to Americans, and technological and scientific advances should not cause those rights to fall by the wayside. Works Cited Edwards, Lisa C. “Tissue Tug of War: A Comparison of International

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