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MMC Talks Bioethics: The Story of Henrietta Lacks

April 26, 2019
Jordan Barnett, ’21 Biomedical Sciences and Behavioral Neuroscience Double Major
  • Jordan Barnett '21

Too often black people are silenced or their account is not considered valid, and that it why having the Henrietta Lacks Film Screening and Discussion was so important. Henrietta Lacks was a black woman living in Baltimore when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Shortly after her death, her cells were used for many medical discoveries. They would later be known as the first immortal cell line. For many years, Henrietta Lacks was not given credit for the discoveries because she was a black woman. In time, she finally received credit, but never any compensation or resources for the medicines resulting from her cells. Her story is also so important because of the bioethical standards broken by the medical professionals who dealt with her case. The bioethical principles the healthcare field now stands by would not be possible without Henrietta Lacks.

This movie screening was important to me because of the stories I’ve heard from elders in my family. Many of them are afraid to go the doctor’s office due to the stories they have heard over the years. As someone who wants to be in the healthcare field, I feel it is my responsibility to educate others on the history of healthcare in minority communities and help others understand the awareness that needs to supplement health related visits.

Leading up to this event, I remember feeling very nervous as to how it was going to be received. I realized that the importance of the event was worth being a little nervous and the event came out very well. We had a total of ten people come out to watch the film and participate in discussion. One of the most amazing parts of the event was the discussion; I loved how everyone was able to understand the tiers of ethics pertaining to healthcare, and how many of the attendees were able to recall moments in history similar to Henrietta’s story. All and all, I am so grateful that people came out to support the event, but more important than that, I am incredibly grateful to have learned about a phenomenal woman whose unimaginable story was able to touch the lives of so many.