Psy305 Ethical Principles

In: Philosophy and Psychology

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Ethical Principles Paper
PSY/305
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Henrietta (Loretta) Pleasant, born in August of 1920 in Roanoke, VA, was an African American woman who was raised by her grandfather in a small cabin on a plantation. At the age of 14, she gave birth to her first child, a son, followed by a daughter four years later. She married the father of her children, her first cousin David Lacks, shortly thereafter. After having moved to Maryland for work, the couple had three other children. The last, Joseph, was born in November of 1950, and two months later, in January of 1951, Henrietta went to the hospital with abnormal bleeding. A malignant tumor of her cervix was discovered, and was treated with radiation therapy, which was ultimately unsuccessful. Mrs. Lacks died on October 4, 1951, at the age of 31.
During the course of her treatment for cervical cancer, a section of the tumor was removed and sent to the pathology lab. While being treated with radiation, two more samples (one of healthy tissue, and one of cancerous tissue) were also removed without Henrietta’s consent or knowledge. These cell samples were given to Dr. George Otto Gey, a scientific researcher who had spent years trying to figure out how to keep cells alive outside the human body. In Henrietta’s cells, he found his answer. The cell line grown from Henrietta Lack’s sample, now known simply as HeLa, has been utilized in research and medical labs throughout the world since the 1950s.
The controversy
The case of Henrietta Lacks is unique, in that it serves both as a cautionary tale and a success story. Both the demographics of the case and the mindset during the time in which this occurred led to the lack of proper ethics concerning the gathering of cells from this woman. In the 1950s, the sanctity of the person was not honored, and experimentation was deemed acceptable, whether with or…...

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