Guest Blogger Ann Shattles Poses Question to Class of 2015

Ann Shattles would like to know, “Whether you’ve only looked at the cover or if you’ve had a chance to start the book, based on what you’ve read thus far, what issues or ethical dilemmas do you expect the author to raise?”

- Ann Shattles is the Assistant Director of the Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center and an Adjunct Lecturer in the English Department at Southern Methodist University.

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4 Responses to Guest Blogger Ann Shattles Poses Question to Class of 2015

  1. Justin Thomas says:

    Although we shouldn’t expect a surface-level skimming of Rebecca Skloot’s book to provide us with wonderful insights, readers can easily acknowledge the multifarious problems and situations presented to us. One issue may be the “immortal” nature of the cell itself. Man is not meant to live forever and all parts of him should be expected to wear away, including his cells. With the ability to live forever in culture, HeLa cells present the opportunity to transcend what we as humans are comfortable with. The power to reproduce cells at will gives scientists God-like ability in discerning what is fit to live and what isn’t. Skloot may ultimately highlight the conflicting relationship between rapidly increasing knowledge and technology with acceptable moral behavior.

  2. Emily Le says:

    HeLa cells have been described as “vital” to medical studies and vaccine development. The discoveries made from experimenting on these cells have saved lives worldwide. Though Henrietta Lacks did not explicitly agree to the collection of her cells, one might ask whether the numerous medical developments aided by said cells outweigh lack of consent. Skloot’s emphases on the importance of the cells and informed consent suggest that Skloot will explore whether ends can truly justify means.

  3. Philippa Dodson says:

    A big issue addressed in the book is the commercialization of the cells. Initially, the cells were used for research at no cost. Eventually they were made commercially available for a price and generated quite a bit of income. Who should be the beneficiary of that income? Can any person patent their cells? These are questions posed by Skloot.

  4. Emily Dunn says:

    In addition to the other issues already mentioned, the author will have to address a number of dilemmas arising from Mrs. Lacks’s race and how racial issues were handled during her lifetime . Henrietta Lacks was treated in a separate “colored” wing for free- should her cells have been “free game” in exchange for her medical treatment? The Lacks family were descended from farmers and slaves, limiting their access to science education- was it the doctor’s responsibility to explain the procedures, the nature of Hela, or even the concept of a cell? This next question gets a little further into the book and a bit on to another topic, but a certain cell marker found almost primarily in African Americans allowed the Hela cells to be linked back to the Lacks family – how much genetic information can be allowed to become public? Furthermore, can that information be used as a screening tool for insurance, jobs, etc? This entire novel is definitely a excellent platform for discussing all of these issues and more, which will make for a very lively discussion once we get to campus.

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