Immortal Cells

Nursing Students Student Assist


Evaluate the book "The Immortal Life of Henriette Lacks" and determine whether the book effectively illustrates the significance of Henriette Lack's Life, her contributions to science and their impact on her family.

Are there problems elements as to how Skloot portrays Lacks and her family?

In my opinion I don't think that there are problem elements as to how Skloot portrayed Lacks and her family I feel that she did a great job of capturing their lives and how they lived. It was interesting to see that her family went through many challenges. They were a poor uneducated black family that worked hard in the tobacco fields trying to make a living. Most young Lackses didn't finish school (Skloot, 2010). With that being said Henriette was responsible for one of the greatest medical discoveries in the medical history. To know the background story lets you that sometimes great things can come from ordinary people. The book did a good job of explaining how the cells were used and how their use became such a significant scientific breakthrough. I appreciated how the book showed the evolution of the cells and the many hands that aided in the production of the cells including the Tuskegee Institute (Skloot, 2010). It was great to read that without even trying blacks made a contribution to the world even during racially tense times. But the take home message was the importance of not only the cells and what they were able to do with them but the importance of the patient consent.

Do you agree with Lengauer's quote that it is important to know about Henrietta Lacks? Why or why not?

Yes it is important to know about Henriette Lacks. I've always found it interesting to find out who are the people behind certain discoveries in the world. When I learned about them and how they were a part of a certain discovery it makes me appreciate their contribution even more. It also makes me want to tell people about them. It's a good feeling when you can have knowledge about how something came about and for me it leads to wanting to know more about the subject or situation.

Explain how learning about Henriette Lacks story helped you become a more ethical leader.

Learning about Henriette Lacks has made me a more ethical leader just by learning of her story. Her story centers on the decision of her doctors to take and use her cervical cells without her permission and without her family's knowledge. Henriette wasn't even aware that her treatments left her sterile and she wanted to have more kids (Skloot, 2010). It was ethically wrong with how the medical community handled the discovery of the HeLA cells and what it did to the Lacks family. Working as a nurse I have always been an advocate for the patient, that's part of what we do. But after reading this book I can look at the patient consent a little differently now. I look at the patient as more of a whole now and not just how treatment or a procedure would benefit them. What is the patient's decision and do they have enough information to make that decision.

Provide 2-3 examples of what medical professionals can do to prevent unethical practices.

Know what ethical practices are so that you can report them when you see them.

Speak up, if you see an unethical practice say something in a timely manner to prevent it from happening.


Skloot, R. (2010). The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. In R. Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (p. 20, 47-48, 97). New York: Crown Publishing.

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Specializes in Nephrology, Cardiology, ER, ICU.

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