Who owns your cells? When they are in your body it’s not much of a question. Does the answer change if they have been taken for testing?
Henrietta Lacks was a 31-year-old mother of five when she died in 1951 of a particularly fast-moving form of cervical cancer. Doctors treating her at Johns Hopkins Hospital took samples of her cancer cells for study. Ms. Lack’s cell line was the first human cell line to grow in a lab environment and went on to help develop the polio vaccine chemotherapy in vitro fertilization and much more. Does the magnitude of these scientific achievements outweigh the fact that doctors did not obtain consent from Ms. Lacks?
To preparefor this Discussion review the Grady article in this week’s Learning Resources -Second Opinion: A Lasting Gift to Medicine That Wasn’t Really a Gift on the case of Henrietta Lacks and the famous HeLa cell line.
Posta comprehensive response to the following:
Judson K. & Harrison C. (2016). Law and ethics for the health professions. (7th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.
Medical Law Ethics and Bioethics for the Health Professions
Devine C. (2010). Tissue rights and ownership: Is a cell line a research tool or a person? Retrieved from
Feldman R. (2010). Whose Body is it Anyway? Human Cells and the Strange Effects of Property and Intellectual Property Law Stanford Law Review Forthcoming. Retrieved from SSRN:
Grady D. (2010 February 1). Second opinion: A lasting gift to medicine that wasn’t really a gift. The New York Times.
Note: Retrieved from the Walden Library databases.
How do you balance major benefits to medical research with an individual’s fundamental rights? This article provides an excellent overview of the Henrietta Lacks story.
Harmon A. (2010 April 22). Tribe wins fight to limit research of its DNA. New York Times.
Note: Retrieved from the Walden Library databases.
This article profiles the Havasupai Indians (an Arizona Native American tribe) victory in a lengthy battle with a state university to limit research conducted on tribe members DNA.
Truog R. Kesselheim A. & Joffe S. (2012). Paying tissue donors: The legacy of Henrietta Lacks. Science. 337(6090) 37-38. Retrieved from
Optional Resources
Audio Podcast: Gross T. (2010 February 2). Henrietta Lacks: A donor’s immortal legacy [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from
Rebecca Skloot: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Rebecca Skloot: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

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