This is the story of a young lady who died of cancer in 1951. The book, by Rebecca Skloot, brings many issues that are found in medicine. Before this incident, scientists and doctors had not seen human cells reproducing in a laboratory. There are a lot of discoveries that come from the use of these cancer cells. The issues of ethics in biology and medicine are also a factor of great concern. There are many things that can be learned from this book. This paper is a personal reflection of the important things that I have learnt from reading the book.
I have learned a lot of things from reading the book. I am inspired by the importance of the smallest thing that the doctor did when he took part of the cancer part of the patient. This has been the source of numerous discoveries. In chapter one, I learn something important that is common with my life. Henrietta assumed many things in her life. She was told to visit a doctor to diagnose what she was feeling I her abdomen. She was feeling pain but every time her friends told her to see the doctor, she put off this idea. There are many things that we normally put off but affect us afterwards. In the chapter, we are told that Henrietta had a lot of untreated medical conditions. Henrietta did not have the courage to visit the doctor and seek the treatment because she felt she did not qualify to be treated because of her black skin (Skloot 52). This has taught me a lesson that what we assume in life will eventually affect us. I have also learnt that the best thing that we are supposed to do when we are faced with such challenges is to take the appropriate action as fast as possible. Medical conditions should be treated earlier. Had Henrietta gone to the hospital with the first signs, probably the story could be different. I have also learnt of the external factors that can affect the medical condition of a patient. In this setup, there was racial discrimination; this is one aspect that Henrietta could be worried about and did not see the need to be treated by a doctor. This is one factor that can be attributed to the turn of events.
In chapter two, the author brings about the life of young Henrietta. It brings about the important issue of basic needs and requirements of a family. One thing I have learned here is that there should be medical checkups from early childhood. On close scrutiny, I realize that there could be a condition for the children while they were living I their grandfather’s house. There were no medical checkups that the children underwent while they were in this place. There could be issues that went untreated.
There is one thing that is striking in chapter three. I learn that lack of information is one cause of several deaths. Doctors were not sure of what they were treating. This is because there was a lack of information regarding cancer. I learn that the lack of information is something painful to the patient. At the time of Henrietta’s ailment, there was a lack of information regarding cancer. This led to many amateur tests that were done blindly. From this I learn that it is important to have the right information when handling a delicate matter. Lack of information has been the source of many errors that have been made in the world. There are many innocent patients who have met their deaths because of wrong treatments. I also get an important aspect here where doctors should have vetted and approval from authorities. These approvals are on treatments and tests which are still new. This is a lesson to people that we should seek for approval from those who have better experiences than we do have.
The feeling is that the patient was helpless in the whole process. She had a blame to take for her ignoring of the doctor visit. Although this is the case, she was a victim of circumstances in most of the happenings. She underwent treatment that the doctors were not sure of themselves. She had a right to know the kind of treatment that she was undergoing. She should have been given proper and sure treatment in all these.
There is also another important aspect that I get in the whole issue. There is the important issue of medical health costs and the insurance. This is an important issue that is coming out clearly. Had Henrietta had a good health insurance cover, there could have been better treated for her ailment. It is important to understand this fundamental concept in this whole scenario.
The most poignant aspect of the whole scenario is the fact that the doctors used her cells as experience. The doctor who took her cancerous cells did this because she wanted to study something. I feel that she was taken advantage. From this, it is clear that the doctors were more concerned about their studies on the cells and not her life. When she died, nobody cared as much. What they were happy about is that they had acquired what they wanted. I feel that her life was not as important to many doctors as they seemed to care. In this scenario, too, there is the ethical consideration that comes out in the whole thing. Henrietta’s cells were taken from her in the pretense that she was being treated. I feel bad that she died after her cells were taken. It is also painful to note that her cells were taken from her without any form of compensation to her or her family. It is like she is helpless and exploited.
After reading this book, it reminds me my own experience when I was suffering from ulcers. I did not get the doctor immediately because I was made to believe that by avoiding some foods I would be good. This went on for a long time until I was very uncomfortable. Uncomfortable because I felt I was a burden to many people when I visit them. This is because I had to tell them that I was not comfortable with some foods. I felt I was giving them unnecessary costs. Had I sought medical attention earlier, I could have avoided all these troubles.
I also have another nasty experience I went through when I took my father for treatment for some high blood pressure. I went to a district hospital where we met medical students who were on internship. My father was used as a specimen. The medical students were undergoing some training on the causes of high blood pressure in elderly people. I felt my father was used wrongly to get information to the students. There was no communication that this would happen and we were not told anything. This was unethical by all means as my father had gone to the hospital for treatment and not for any form of training. What made things worse is that my father was asked some personal questions. I had to intervene and told the students off. I want them to seek the necessary permission from my father first. This was poignant.
I have learnt that there are some situations that patients are exploited. In these situations, the caretakers should be informed of any medical procedure that is being done to their patients. They should be informed of what is happening and should ensure that their patients get the right privacy as much as possible. Another important thing is that when seeking for treatment for terminal diseases like cancer, ensure that the health institution that one is using has advanced equipment. There should be privacy policies concerning clients put in place. This ensures that clients get access to their rights as much as possible.
I have learnt many things from this book. One of the things that I have learnt is that we should not trust all our personal details to the experts. We should manage the process of giving out information. Many patients assume that what the doctors ask them is final and should not be doubted. All issues of privacy should be handled ell.
Another important thing is that we should take small opportunities even if they seem not to be working. The doctor took advantage of the situation and took Henrietta’s cells to be used for experiments. This opportunity made way to many discoveries. It was because of this that many medical advances were made. Another incident that shows this is that Henrietta took time before seeing the doctor. We should not delay when seeking information or a service. I learnt that when seeking treatment, time is of the essence.
Skloot, Rebecca. The immortal life of Henrietta Lacks. Random House Digital, Inc., 2010.