The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Ethical consideration is one of the primary aspects of medical research that guide the scholars throughout their scientific studies. In medical practices and researches, ethics refer to the accepted code of conduct of the clinicians while undertaking their duties. It establishes the nature of interaction and relations between the patients and clinicians. Additionally, it covers the obligation of clinicians to their patients and the nature of handling the confidential information they retrieve. Besides, medical ethics also look into the choices concerning the distribution of insufficient resources and accessibility to healthcare.
Using human beings or its part is one of the controversial subjects as both proponents and opponents present strong cases. The primary role of medical research is to enhance efficiency, the discovery of drugs and developing evidence-based medical practices. However, the researcher must first get consent from the person or a relative before extracting their body parts for any study (Department of Health, Education, 2014).
In this short science fiction, Rebeca Skloot presents an interesting topic of discussion on by presenting a character that is used as a subject for scientific study by two doctors, Telinde and Gey. From the statement, it is apparent that the patient issued a consent for the doctors to extract cells from her cervix and use it in their research. The fundamental principle in using human samples in studies is first getting their consent before taking any step. Issuing the agreement must be guided by informed decision and the patient (or human sample) must have adequate knowledge of the extent their body or body parts will be used. The subjects have to make their decisions from an informed position hence the need to provide them with adequate information on the subject. It is worth noting that most patients do not have a medical background hence the need to have a third party that understand the subject.
In the case of Henrietta, she gave consent for the doctors to conduct any surgical procedure that would enhance her treatment. Even though she gave the green light for the doctors to conduct the surgical process, it is not clear whether she was provided with sufficient information on the type of research her cells would be used. Further, the statement gives does not provide the context under which Henrietta gave the consent thus leaving the reader to make his or her guess. However, the two doctors did not breach any code of conduct by removing cells from her cervix and using them as study samples.
The doctors had obligation to Henrietta by ensuring that they used the study outcome in treating her. In the consent statement, it clear that the patient wants the outcome from the surgical procedure to be used in treating a specific patient. Therefore, the doctors had an obligation to Henrietta and her family by using the outcome from the surgical process to treat her. However, using the cells to conduct studies outside her agreement amounts to a breach of the consent hence bordering on unethical practice.
The researchers have a primary mandate to maintain high ethical standards during and after conducting their studies. Firstly, the researchers must ensure their studies do not extend beyond the agreed boundaries by the subject. Using a single subject to conduct multiple studies without their consent amounts to exploitation (Fouka & Mantzorou, 2018). Secondly, the scientist has a moral authority to maintain the privacy of their samples at all times.
In conclusion, the two doctors did not breach the consent of Henrietta by extracting the cancer cells from her cervix. However, using the samples to conduct a general research on cancer cells raises questions but the outcome of the study has proven good for the whole human race.
Department of Health, Education. (2014). The Belmont Report. Ethical principles and guidelines for the protection of human subjects of research. The Journal of the American College of Dentists, 81(3), 4.
Fouka, G., & Mantzorou, M. (2018). What are the major ethical issues in conducting research? is there a conflict between the research ethics and the nature of nursing? Health Science Journal. Retrieved from http://www.hsj.gr/medicine/what-are-the-major-ethical-issues-in-conducting-research-is-there-a-conflict-between-the-research-ethics-and-the-nature-of-nursing.php?aid=3485