Some questions to help you get started; feel free to discuss anything from the book that interested you!!
Have you tried to explain science to people with no science education? How do you approach this challenge? How do you prevent the kinds of misconceptions that Henrietta’s family were left with? Biology Question Essay Example
The first mention of Henrietta Lacks’ family says that they refused to give a postmortem sample of her tissues and were angry about not receiving any financial compensation. Did this surprise you, given that the introduction discusses how important these cells have been?
Why did so few books correctly name Henrietta Lacks? Why did they try to include her name and information?
What are some of your initial thoughts about reading this book? Have you ever read a book like this? What other books have you read that take a similar approach to a person’s life and impact on others?
The articles in Ebony and Jet found by Rebecca Skloot said that the Lacks family had only recently learned that her cells were still alive, 25 years after Henrietta’s death. They then understood that she was being studied, but not why. How do you think these experiences contributed to the family’s outlook on medicine and science?
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Why did David Lacks take Henrietta to the public wards at Johns Hopkins instead of a closer hospital?
What did Henrietta’s first doctor assume the source of the lump on her cervix was? What bias did this show?
Based on Henrietta’s medical history, what can you infer about her life and personality? How would you describe her feelings about doctors?
What are the connotations of the term “home-house?” What does this term suggest about the values of the Lacks family?
Compare the medical terms describing Elsie’s condition with the terms used by Henrietta’s friends and family. What are the connotations of the two sets of terms?
How did doctors justify using patients in public hospital wards as medical research subjects without obtaining their consent or offering them financial compensation? Do you agree or disagree with their reasoning?
Analyze the consent statement that Henrietta signed (p. 31). Based on this statement, do you believe TeLinde and Gey had the right to obtain a sample from her cervix to use in their research?
Do you think Henrietta would have given explicit consent to have a tissue sample used in medical research if she had been asked? Do you think she would have understood what was being asked of her? Explain your answers.
How informed should consent be? The standard is to write consent forms at a fourth grade reading level. Do you think that level is correct and appropriate? Why?
Were cells taken only from black patients? Were black patients generally treated differently from white patients in the early 1950s?
Gey chose to give away samples of HeLa to his colleagues almost immediately. Do you think this was a good decision?
What is the implication of the author’s decision to use the term “birth” to describe the initial growth of HeLa cells?