The Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksCell research, the use of human tissue to test, find cures and develop vaccinations for various diseases, has been an issue of debate for many years. While some argue patients should have a say in what happens to our tissue, we are “morally obligated” to help the world as a whole in advancing medical and scientific research through the use of our tissues for three reasons: 1) This research expedites the process of finding treatments to harmful and lethal diseases. 2) Absent physical or emotional harm in medical testing procedures, individuals are obligated to act in a manner that benefits the greater good of the human race. 3) In a globalizing world, new diseases are spreading that scientists do not understand that could threaten the existence of mankind. Desperate times sometimes require desperate measures be taken.
The use of human tissue has been a crucial factor in finding treatments to many harmful or lethal diseases for many decades. Henrietta Lacks cells (HeLa cells) were instrumental in making the polio vaccination available to the world. “By the end of 1951 the world was in the midst of the biggest polio epidemic in history. In 1952 Jonas Salk at the University of Pittsburgh announced he had developed the world’s first polio vaccine, be he couldn’t begin offering it to children until he’d tested it on a large scale to prove it was safe and effective.” (Skloot p.105). “Not long after Henrietta’s death, planning began for a HeLa factory, a massive operation that would grow to produce trillions of HeLa cells each week. It was built for one reason: to help stop polio.” (Sklott p.107). Up to this point all of the testing had been performed on monkeys, which was very expensive and caused the monkeys to die. HeLa cells allowed the scientists to prove the Salk vaccine effective in significantly less time and cost than would have otherwise possible and helped eradicate a disease that was sweeping the world….

Henrietta Lacks