Part 1

Part 1

Reflection on Chapters 1-5

It was completely ridiculous that Dr. George Gey took samples of Henrietta’s tumor without her consent. She had no idea what Dr. Gey did inside her body and patients deserve a right to know every step of the process. Dr. Gey was incredibly out of line by taking these samples of the tumor, even if he had good intentions for the research. Every one of these doctors working for John Hopkins University, along with other prestigious universities, were in a mad race for growing out of body cells. Because HeLa seemed to hold the key,  Dr. Gey went out of line thinking he could easily advance his research. Overall, what happened in these first 5 chapters was a long list of wrongs on Dr. Gey and others at the university to Henrietta.

Science Question

Chapter 5 explains the history and medical use of radium, which could be particularly useful in the radiology program.

Do we use radium today? How are patients radiated for cancer treatment? Is it safe?

Radian is commonly used to create Radon gas which is used in cancer treatment. In the early 19th century, radian was used in such everyday items like toothpaste, hair gel, and even some food products, however, radian is not used in these products anymore. Over 50% of cancer patients in present day are treated with radiation. Radiation is highly focused on specific areas by a machine and applied onto cancer sites. These radiation treatments are created by UV lights that are invisible to the human eye. Essentially the machine creates this high concentration of these UV lights and then applies it to where the cancer is. Occasionally, radiation can be spread from the patient to other family members if they fail to be sanitary in their everyday lives. While radian can be contained in small doses, most people in the medical field can agree that radian is an unsafe element to use in medical procedures.

Reflection on Chapters 6-11

The doctor’s arrogance in these chapters is incredibly frustrating. Even though Henrietta continued to report pain in her abdomen, Dr. Gey decided to not continue procedures on her and let the tumor grow till it filled her entire abdomen. If this had happened in the present day, the doctor would be sued for some serious malpractice. Also, it was interesting that the Lacks family was very hesitant in helping the reporter in writing this book. Because they felt used before by white doctors and other journalists/writers, they were very skeptical about the writing of this book. Also, the pain that Henrietta Lacks must have gone through was very sad to see. Because the doctors lied to her and led her on to think she still had a chance of living, it was heartbreaking to see the pain the tumor caused to Henrietta.

Non-Science Question:

How do you think the Lacks’ lives might have been different had Henrietta’s doctors asked for and gotten informed consent from her family before gathering her cells for research?

For starters, the Lacks family would have definitely been more trustful of white doctors and reporters in the future, which would have helped the Henrietta Lacks story get out faster and more effectively spread. Also, the family would have seen that Henrietta did not die for nothing and offered to humanity her genes so that men and women with a similar condition and tumor like her could get treatment for their problems. The doctors also should have respected the Lacks family and given medical consent that would have definitely been required of Doctor Gey and others like him in the field today. Consent and informing the family overall would have given the Henrietta Lacks story less sketchiness and the ability to be a story about the bravery of Henrietta and not a story about doctoral malpractice and failure to inform Henrietta and her family on the seriousness of her condition.

Research Topic

What really were some of the ways that HeLa cells helped in the field of medicine?

This continuously reproducing cell line extracted from Henrietta Lacks have had serious implications in the field of medicine ever since her death. The HeLa cells helped create the vaccine for polio, the field of chemotherapy, and even milestones in cloning research and technology. One way in which they create these vaccines is by implementing Henrietta’s cells with all sorts of toxins and radiation to see if they can live throughout these insane conditions. The HeLa cells even helped doctor’s figure out how cancer first starts to reproduce inside of a person’s body. Almost every laboratory studying biology in the present day has been using HeLa cells to advance their research. Ever since 1951, the cells have continued to reproduce very fast, allowing them to be sent all over the world. While these cells have helped with many diseases, cancer research and the polio vaccine were HeLa’s greatest achievements.


Lingering Question: Were Henrietta’s HeLa cells ever used in a malpractice/sinister way.


Tobacco, America’s Colonial Bloodline

Tobacco is America’s drug. While accounting for 444,000 American deaths per year, you would think that Tobacco might have been the worst thing that has ever happened to The United States since the first slaves were brought over. In reality, this is not the case. How could we possibly thank Tobacco as a US citizen. We can thank Tobacco for building our country. 

So where can we start. We can start in 1614, in the failing British Colonies in America such as Jamestown. Investors payed a lot of money to have these colonies created, but were getting 0 profit due to the constant diseases, lack of food, and Native American Attacks on these colonies. These investors needed a fast return on their cash or the entire British colonial effort would be lost. That was when “miracle drug” finally hit the market in the Chesapeake Bay colonies. In 1622, a stable Tobacco economy had finally been created in the US. This allowed for the creation of multiple other colonies that ran off of this large scale industry such as Virginia, New York, and Maryland. These middle colonies were essentially ran by the Tobacco industry, relying on its profits and work t support their large populations. By the end of the seventeenth century, tobacco exports from the colonies to England was over 20,000,000 pounds. Laws were created to maximize the profit from Tobacco and protect the cheap cost of making it. This staple crop in America was incredibly cheap to purchase by farmers, which allowed tobacco to be easily grown and produced out of the colonies. All these benefits from tobacco helped grow the industry in the colony which in turn created wealth through trade. Tobacco producing was rarely regulated till the Virginian Inspection Acts were passed in 1730. Because of this lack of regulation on tobacco production, the industry was really able to boom in the 17th century till the regulations took place. This large economic boom helped fund roads and government buildings, showing that tobacco literally built America.

Tobacco regulations actually helped make the industry grow even larger. This is because it was allowed to grow quite fast without regulations, but when the regulations were put in place in 1730, the tobacco was known for being very high quality. This skyrocketed the market even higher, allowing it to be the largest produced export from the US for a long time in the 17th and 18th century. 

This plant that has caused so much harm to the US has also built this nation from the ground up. Our roots are so tied up with tobacco that its economical impact is the only reason it is still around today.  So this brings up an interesting question, can we really hate this miracle plant??? 


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