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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

A College-Wide Reading selection

Discussion Questions

Skloot Discussion Questions

1. How has medical science been advanced by the study of Henrietta Lacks' cells? Give examples.

2. What factors (race, class, gender, "the times") do you think were responsible for Henrietta's cells being taken from her without her permission? What factors do you think were responsible for her family being kept in the dark about the many ways in which the study of her cells were contributing to medical science?

3. In your opinion, was it "unethical" for researchers to take (and profit from) Henrietta’s cells without her permission? Why? Why not? (Define "ethical" and "unethical".) Should the Lacks family be given financial compensation in return for use of her Henrietta's cells? How would this financial compensation be determined? Who would pay?

4. What changes in research on human subjects resulted, directly and indirectly, from the Lacks case?

5. What impact did the unfolding of the story of Henrietta's "immortal cells" have on her husband and children, particularly her daughter, Deborah?

 6. How does the author herself become part of the story of Henrietta Lacks?

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