The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

What shocked me most about Henrietta Lacks’s story was the fact that I didn’t know a thing about it until the movie came out. Being from Baltimore, over half (at least) of my friends growing up had parents who worked for Hopkins, so the hospital and healthcare system are extremely familiar to me. Why was I not taught about this in school any time during my life? I think the movie in particular did a great job of showing the generational effects and trauma of medical mistrust in the African American community in Baltimore specifically, but I think their sentiments could resonate with people of color across the US. I’m just still shocked that the Lacks family was kept completely in the dark for decades after Henrietta’s death about the use of her cells. It honestly scared me at the end when the movie said that doctors can still take and use medical samples without a patient’s permission if they remove the patient’s name from the sample. It made me think back to every medical procedure and surgery I’ve had and gave me the creeps. I don’t understand how that is still legal. I also don’t understand why they were allowed to rename the cells to Helen Lane – that almost seems worse than just using her real name because it shows no respect to her contributions to science. I am still in disbelief that the Lacks family didn’t receive any sort of compensation for their suffering from Hopkins. I think the most devastating part of the movie was Deborah’s obvious suffering with multiple mental illnesses, and her not seeming to get the help she needs. It is clear that her issues are due in part to her mother’s experiences and learning the truth about her mother years later, so to me, I feel Hopkins is responsible for Deborah’s suffering with mental illness and they should have compensated her in some way for it. Overall, this movie was INCREDIBLY heavy to watch, but I am glad I know Henrietta’s story now. It was able to give a face, name, and powerful story to our discussions of medical mistrust in the past few weeks in class, which I think is very valuable.

Published by

Leave a Reply