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Submerge The Cells, Drain The Body, Protect The Soul: The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks

1112 words - 5 pages

The idea was not hers, neither was the work nor science behind it, but the cells were. That has to count for something. Rebecca Skloot sees that in a glimmer at the age of sixteen, and, in that moment, Rebecca’s life is no longer her own. And because of that the bounds of science and ethics are no longer separate matters.
Rebecca Skloot believes it counts for something. People do bad things that have bad outcomes and get away with it. And people do bad things that have good outcomes and get away with it. Rebecca Skloot’s nonfiction novel, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, questions the morals behind decisions that can benefit the human population. Does it make it acceptable to steal because stealing this particular thing (Henrietta’s cells) “helped develop drugs for treating herpes, leukemia, influenza, hemophilia, and Parkinson’s disease” (Skloot 10)? Rebecca Skloot hones in on emotional appeals; she not only wants to question the ethics in science but shine a light on what those in higher places are capable of getting away with. Skloot embarks on an passionate journey as she criticizes the ethics of scientists, the injustice thrown upon the Lacks’, and the family ties that run deeper than connective tissues and cancerous cells. Skloot immerses herself in the cells, the dynamics, the family and surfaces with the reader, on the other side, transformed.
Rebecca Skloot defies the ordinary when presenting Henrietta’s story. Chronology plays an important role in the flow of this nonfiction piece. Rebecca takes the reader, first, through Henrietta’s diagnosis before bringing them back to the beginning of Henrietta Lacks’ life. The reality and abruptness of this chapter is what pulls the reader in. The shortness of the chapter and the brief insight to what is going on with Henrietta implants a sense of curiosity in the reader. By nature, the first chapter is not supposed to tell the reader everything but ending on the tumor that it is growing at a terrifying rate, makes the reader want to know more. Is it curable? How can it be stopped?
The following chapter introduces Henrietta Lacks in a more formal manner. It is already known that Henrietta is a woman of color, as Professor Defler pointed out. Henrietta was born in Clover, Virginia. She was often referred to as "sweetest girl [one could] ever wanna meet" (90). Henrietta described, what was later found to be cancer, as a “knot on [her] womb” (21) but carried a baby to full term till she finally sought medical attention, first, at a clinic, and then at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, where she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Thus the cells, labeled as “HeLa”, took form. The cells were distributed to scientists across the board, becoming the most popular and profiting thing to rock the science in the last hundred years. From a scientific, and medical, standpoint, Henrietta was helping the human population in ways no one could ever imagine. Not even her family, whom had no idea the work...

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