The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Henrietta Lacks: Used as a Means to an End 11th Grade

“We must not see any person as an abstraction. Instead, we must see in every person a universe with its own secrets, with its own treasures, with its own sources of anguish, and with some measure of triumph.”

Every person on Earth is multi-faceted: each has more sides to him or her than one would expect. This is why problems occur when people are treated as one-dimensional characters, as this perspective conflicts directly with an individual’s inherent human nature. In The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, both the media and the scientific community are guilty of treating the Lacks family as a mere collective tool; only Skloot herself shows respect for the family.

Science is based on cold, hard facts, and the attitude the scientific community developed is on par with just that mentality: cold and unfeeling. When Henrietta’s cells were taken, she was no longer Henrietta Lacks to the scientists. Instead, she became HeLa, a cell line with no human identity. In fact, there is no recognition given to her for the longest time, and when recognition is given, she is called “Helen Lane” by the scientists and the media for the longest time. It is this attitude towards Henrietta that later is directed at her family. Hsu...

Join Now to View Premium Content

GradeSaver provides access to 724 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 4180 literature essays, 1403 sample college application essays, 171 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.

Join Now

Already a member? Log in