The Immortal Life of Herietta Lacks

581 Words3 Pages
Throughout the book, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot, it was evident that Deborah Lacks was curious to find out what happened to her mother, Henrietta, and her sister, Elsie. For her mother, she wanted to find out how she died and what happened to the HeLa cells. For her sister, Deborah wanted to know how she died and what kind of life she had at Crownsville. These questions concerning Elsie and Henrietta took such a toll on Deborah that she became physically ill and suffered extreme stress. In order to find out what happened to her sister Elsie, Deborah and Rebecca went to visit Crownsville where Elsie was staying before she died. Crownsville was a psychiatric hospital for African-Americans. Deborah wanted to see her sister’s medical record and investigate how she was being treated there. When she was there, she found out that they included Elsie in a study entitled, “Pneumoencephalographic and skull X-ray studies in 100 Epileptics”. This involved draining fluid from the skull to obtain clearer images of the brain. It is also likely that Elsie was involved in the process of the insertion of metal probes into the brain. Both of these were done without patient or family consent. Realizing the extent of the mistreatment of her sister and abuses of medical research clearly had an effect on Deborah, evidenced by her angry outburst at Rebecca. Henrietta died when Deborah was two years old. Deborah didn’t know anything about the HeLa cells until she got older. When she found out about her mother’s cells, it is obvious that struggling to understand both what was done to her mother and the extent of her mother’s suffering as a result. When Deborah first learned that living HeLa cells were used in research, she wondered how her mother had died but still had living cells. Also, she wondered if it hurt her mother when people experimented on the
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