Who owns your cells

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Who owns your cells essay assignment

Who owns your cells? When they are in your body, it’s not much of a question. Does the answer change if they have been taken for testing?

Who owns your cells essay assignment

Henrietta Lacks was a 31-year-old mother of five when she died in 1951 of a particularly fast-moving form of cervical cancer. Doctors treating her at Johns Hopkins Hospital took samples of her cancer cells for study. Ms. Lack’s cell line was the first human cell line to grow in a lab environment and went on to help develop the polio vaccine, chemotherapy, in vitro fertilization, and much more. Does the magnitude of these scientific achievements outweigh the fact that doctors did not obtain consent from Ms. Lacks?

To prepare for this Discussion, review the Grady article in this week’s Learning Resources, -Second Opinion: A Lasting Gift to Medicine That Wasn’t Really a Gift” on the case of Henrietta Lacks and the famous “HeLa” cell line.

Post a comprehensive response to the following:

  • In your opinion, who owns the results of research (the cells, the cell lines)? Support your rationale using ethical principles.
  • Should Henrietta Lacks’ descendents receive remuneration for the products resulting from the research conducted with HeLa cells? Support your rationale with legal principles.
  • If Ms. Lacks had given informed consent, would your opinion change?



Judson, K., & Harrison, C. (2016). Law and ethics for the health professions. (7th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

  • Chapter 11, “The Beginning of Life and Childhood”
    Few topics spark greater ethical debate than genetics and the concept of when life begins. This chapter examines various hot-topic issues related to genetics and our ever-advancing technological capabilities.

Medical Law, Ethics, and Bioethics for the Health Professions”

  • Chapter 14, “Genetic Engineering”
    This chapter takes another look at some of the controversies surrounding the issue of genetic engineering.
  • Chapter 15, “Reproductive Issues”

Devine, C. (2010). Tissue rights and ownership: Is a cell line a research tool or a person? Retrieved from http://stlr.org/2010/03/09/tissue-rights-and-ownership-is-a-cell-line-a-research-tool-or-a-person/

Feldman, R. (2010). Whose Body is it Anyway? Human Cells and the Strange Effects of Property and Intellectual Property Law Stanford Law Review, Forthcoming. Retrieved from SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1731648

Grady, D. (2010, February 1). Second opinion: A lasting gift to medicine that wasn’t really a gift. The New York Times.

Note: Retrieved from the Walden Library databases.

How do you balance major benefits to medical research with an individual’s fundamental rights? This article provides an excellent overview of the Henrietta Lacks story.

Harmon, A. (2010, April 22). Tribe wins fight to limit research of its DNA. New York Times.

Note: Retrieved from the Walden Library databases.

This article profiles the Havasupai Indians” (an Arizona Native American tribe) victory in a lengthy battle with a state university to limit research conducted on tribe members” DNA.

Truog, R., Kesselheim, A., & Joffe, S. (2012). Paying tissue donors: The legacy of Henrietta Lacks. Science. 337(6090) 37-38. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4256075/

Optional Resources

Audio Podcast: Gross, T. (2010, February 2). “Henrietta Lacks”: A donor’s immortal legacy [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/2010/02/02/123232331/henrietta-lacks-a-donors-immortal-legacy

Rebecca Skloot: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Photos http://rebeccaskloot.com/book-special-features/photos/

Rebecca Skloot: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Audio/Video http://rebeccaskloot.com/the-immortal-life/book-special-features/audiovideo/