Ethical Questions raised about the Immortal Life of Henrietta.
The immortal life of Henrietta raised the ethical question of property rights, such as rightful ownership of bio-specimen, specimen commercialization, appropriate sample management, and contribution from the sample. Ideally, the ownership of the sample taken from Henrietta was unknown after Doctor Gey allowed other scientists to exert the cells for research. The profits from the commercialized HeLa cells were massive. The HeLa cells were recognized and used globally without the owner of the cells getting a share of the profits. In fact, the HeLa cells were the first human cells to be commercialised with its contributions constructing multi-billion biotech industries. Despite that she died, various sources indicate that Lacks family was significantly poor, and could not even afford health insurance. Hence, the money could be significantly beneficial to them.
Henrietta immortal life raised the issue of informed consent. The information about the use of the cells was kept a secret from Henrietta family. According to Martins (2014), it was not until 1971, when Lacks’ family got the knowledge that her cells were being utilised for medical experiments globally. The author asserts that the family came to learn about HeLa cells line after a group of scientists needed to take the samples of Henrietta’s family genes to establish the cells culture. Although getting a sample in that period without an informed consent was not an issue, it was unethical for the doctor to utilize the sample without informing the family. Presently, prior to obtaining and utilizing cell samples for research, informed consent is a fundamental legal requirement. Ideally, the bio-specimen taken from Henrietta without her knowledge has been a catalyst for policy change. The ethical rule of informed consent calls for the researcher to acquire voluntary informed consent before taking the sample. For instance, the 1964 declaration of Helsinki by World Medical Association addressed the concerns of ethical principles for medical research that requires obtaining, informed consent (Wagner, 2013).
The immortal life of Henrietta Lacks ethically instigated the question of deception and confusion for the source of HeLa cells line. Skloot (2011) found out that the HeLa cells line researchers were constantly concealing the identity of Henrietta Lacks with a forged pseudonym such as Helen Lane and Helen Larsen to keep the Henrietta family, the public domain, and the media off track. Eventually, her real identity was leaked in the 1970s after Rebecca Skloot met the family of Henrietta while accomplishing a research to investigate the deception and confusion created by the HeLa cells line researchers at Johns Hopkins Hospital where Henrietta’s bio-samples were taken.
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