Literary Analysis Essay on The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Published: 2021-06-23
702 words
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Middlebury College
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Rebecca Skloots is the author of a non-fiction book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Rebecca was publishing the book for public scientific sensation in the world. In this book, Rebecca is both the author and the narrator. This essay will elaborate the main point of the book, who was Henrietta Lacks, the life of Henrietta and her legacy and also her great-grandchildren.

The main point in the book is the origin of modern medicine. The book tells the story of an African-American woman by the name Henrietta Lacks who have immortal cell line, called HeLa. The woman died of cancer in 1951, and although her death was a tragedy for her family, her immortal cells have benefited the medical research all over the world. Few years after her death, Lacks cells which had been taken from her tumor during her surgery have made medical advances it possible all over the world because the cells reproduce indefinitely pushing forward the understanding of cancer and other diseases (Skloot, PP. 110).

Henrietta Lacks was a 31-year-old poor black tobacco farmer and was a mother of five children. Her life was full of suffering since they were poor. As a child, she lived with her grandfather after the death of her mother. She married David who was also a tobacco farmer. Henrietta had cervix cancer, and she went for a checkup at John Hopkins Hospital complaining of a knot in her womb after she delivered the fifth child. During her surgery doctors took her cells from her tumor and cultured them without her knowledge or consent (Skloot, PP. 200). The cultured cells resulted to HeLa which were an immortal line of cells that would change the field of medicine and research. The HeLa cells became her legacy.

Lacks died on 4th October 1951. Unlike other cells that died after some time, HeLa was reproducing itself. This meant that all kinds of experiments and research were possible. For instance, having cells that are living outside the human body enabled scientists to watch and discover how division process goes about and how the virus behaves inside a cell. Henriettas legacy is her cells that became important tools in medicine. The cells are important in developing the polio vaccines, gene mapping, human cloning, and Vitro fertilization.

Many have benefited from Lacks cells without her family knowledge. The family learned about their mothers cell by accidents when a scientist had visited Bobbette. The family had no idea of what HeLa cells were and what the scientists meant about them being immortal. The author wants to tell the story of Henrietta family since no one talks about it and at this time the family is aware of their mother cells being immortal (Skloot, PP. 343). The doctor Gey and the Hopkins hospital never informed the family members about the issue.

The siblings who were supposed to carry Henrietta legacy were totally suffering. The children had medical conditions, but they could not access medical care because of poverty and lack of insurance. Joe who grew up with hostile cousins became unstable and violent. He got arrested for murdering a gun who had threatened him. Deborah had to fight off Galen, and she ended up in an abusive marriage at a tender age (Skloot, PP. 350).

Elsie died at Crownsville Hospital where she was institutionalized for Negro insane condition. When Debora learned about her death, she felt a lot of pain knowing she died alone. Deborah search for the truth about her mothers cells and all she want is the cells of her mother are recognized in medical research since many have made a lot of money through HeLa cells while her family cannot afford medical cover.

In conclusion, the book The Immortal of Henrietta Lacks is a remarkable work of investigative journalism. The book shows how HeLa cells made advancements in medical fields. The story of Henrietta and her legacy is well elaborated. Despite Lacks legacy, her children are struggling when outsiders are making millions by selling the cells. The state needs to regulate medical experimentation on a human since medical institutions and scientific are not able to monitor immoral researchers who take advantage of others.

Work Cited

Skloot, Rebecca. The immortal life of Henrietta Lacks. Broadway Books, 2011.

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