In class the other day we discussed the HeLa cells and their medical contributions over the years. With these contributions came ethical issues. Henrietta Lacks never agreed to let the cells that were removed from her body be used for medical research. After she died, the cells remained alive for research and the family did not have a clue. Currently the cells are available for anyone, and as we saw in class we could purchase them online. I also read online that the full DNA sequence is public for anyone to see.
In an article on NBC News (http://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/nih-finally-makes-good-henrietta-lacks-family-its-about-time-f6C10867941), the National Institute of Health explains how the cells will be made more private. To fix ethically wrong behaviors, the cells will now only be made available to those who are approved. In addition to being approved, two members of Henrietta’s family will be on the board to approve what research and experiments the HeLa cells can be used in. Any research that uses the HeLa cells must also add an acknowledgement to the Lacks family.
Although the family will now have some say in when and where the cells are used, they are still not going to receive any financial compensation. In my opinion, the family should at least receive some financial benefit from the cells. The cells have been used for so many years and made billions of dollars. Even if the family began compensation now, ignoring all the past profit, they could still gain some financial profit from the HeLa cells. In Rebecca Skloot’s novel, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, the family was described as poor and financially unstable. This aid from the HeLa cells would help the family a lot. The family has understood and supported the use of the HeLa cells and for that they deserve to be treated properly. I do believe it is right to allow the family to have a say in the process and applications for using the cells. This creates a better ethical standing for the family, and they can have a say in where their relative’s cells go and what they are used for.
Although the family was unethically treated, I believe taking the cells from Henrietta Lacks and using them for research was a good decision. This research led to the cure of disease and many other medical advances. I believe that Henrietta Lacks would be happy to know that her misfortune allowed for other positive outcomes. Since the cells were cancerous, they had to be removed anyway. I honestly believe it is amazing that these negative cells could be used for something so positive, such as finding a cure and vaccine for Polio.
Today in medical practice, whenever someone is undergoing a medical procedure, they have to sign consent that once the hospital takes something from their body, the hospital has rights to use that body part for whatever they seem fit. I believe this is a wise move for hospitals to eliminate future ethical issues in medical research using parts of a patients body.