The Nature of Henrietta Lacks’ Immortality
HeLa cells are the most important discovery in science and have led to many advances in medical sciences. This is due to the fact that these cells rapidly reproduce and have a mysterious trait to them – their immortality. For HeLa cells, it means that they never died which resulted in possible experimentations that could now take place. In classical and contemporary literature, this word represents the never-ending remembrance of the impact something has made throughout its lifetime. The definition of immortality directly represents the woman of the cells, Henrietta Lacks, and she will never be forgotten in the eyes of the world.
One way Henrietta Lacks is immortal is within the memories and hearts of her loved ones. She was a mother, a wife, a sister, and a friend to many, even people she had no relation to. One of her closest cousin recalls, “‘Hennie made life come alive—bein with her was like bein with fun, … Hennie just love peoples. She was a person that could really make the good things come out of you’” (Skloot 43). As the character describes, Henrietta touched the lives of the ones around her and found her own way into their hearts. She made an impact before dying by being a strong and independent African American who was loving and caring. As long as she was living she always put forth positivity and happiness in her surroundings. Adding on, one of Henrietta’s son, Sonny, mentions, “She liked taking care of people, so it made sense what she did with them cells. I mean, people always say she was really just hospitality, … cook breakfast for everybody, even if it’s twenty of them” (Skloot 159). Henrietta carried out her image by always helping and putting others before herself, which she also continues to do with her cells. With this her legacy and her selfless personality, she continues to aid the world by curing many diseases such as polio. Thus, Henrietta’s immortality is shown with the continuation of her nurturing self to her cells.
Debora Lacks, Henrietta’s daughter also became immortal with her actions and decisions she chose to make during the time The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lackswas being made. She herself states, “‘All the stuff I’m learning,’ she said, ‘it make me realize that I did have a mother, and all the tragedy she went through. It hurts but I wanna know more, … It make me feel closer to them, but I do miss them’” (Skloot 288). This quote explains how Deborah pushed through so much pain and mysteries just to learn more about her underrepresented mother. She dedicated time and effort to help the author discover new information and uncover more secrets about Henrietta’s personal life. Debora is one of the reasons why readers know so much about Henrietta Lacks, not Helen Lane or HeLa, and her story of how her cells were stolen from her. Without her daughter and her connections, he author would not have been able to get as up-close and personal as wanted to.
Henrietta Lacks paved the path for minorities, especially African Americans, towards medical rights such as consent in the presence of a physician. Another one of Henrietta’s children, Zakariyya, expresses, “‘Everybody always saying Henrietta Lacks donated those cells. She didn’t donate nothing. They took them and didn’t ask … What really would upset Henrietta is the fact that Dr. Gey never told the family anything – we didn’t know nothing about those cells and he didn’t care’” (Skloot 169). This medical indecently and injustice shows how African Americans were mistreated in hospitals, examination rooms, and operating rooms. The logic behind John Hopkins was that in exchange for medical checkups, the physicians could take some of the patience’s tissue in order to conduct medical research. The author writes, “Like many doctors of his era, TeLinde often used patients from the public wards for research, usually without their knowledge. Many scientists believed that since patients were treated for free in the public wards, it was fair to use them as research subjects as a form of payment” (Skloot 30). The underlying problem is that the hospital assumes this exchange and disregards the patience’s consent of using their property as research material. The Lacks’s family was deeply disturbed by John Hopkins specifically with the idea of their mother’s cells being taken without permission and made a ton of money through it, which the family did not receive. This is very ironic due to the fact that some of the family members adopted illnesses that were treatable with the vaccinations made by the HeLa cells, but were too poor to afford it. Due to all of this mishap, the book and awareness of this situation brought justice towards the topic and helped resolve the discrimination for years to come.
In conclusion, Henrietta and Debora became immortal through their actions and impacted individuals for a long time. Their immortality was caused by them causing a change and a positive influence towards their surroundings. Henrietta Lacks specifically was preserved through the hearts of her loved ones and through the progression of racial medical consent. While she was being progressive, Debora made the effort to come out of her comfort zone to help keep her mother’s life alive. Lastly, immortality is something that is amazing in the sense that it will be remembered, praised, and appreciated for a long time.
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