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Henrietta Lacks: Discussion Questions

Skloot and Lacks Discusion Questions

Discussion Questions

1.  When did Rebecca first hear about Henrietta Lacks?  What was the surprising information that she discovered?

2.  Why did Henrietta's cancerous cells get taken and used without her permission?  Could this have happened to a different demographic (persons of different race, gender, economic standing)? Could it happen today?

3.  What are some of the advancements that have occurred due to HeLa Cells?  Would we have these without the discovery of these cells?

4.  What effect did the discovery that the hospital had kept and used these cells have on the Lack's family?

5.  Do you think that the hospital was "unethical" in its retrieval and use of the HeLa Cells?  Do you think the family should be compensated for any profit that was gained from the use of these cells? 

6.  Race and racism are very much a part of this story.  Did you feel that the author approached this correctly by including the vernacular of participants?  By including the sordid history of the Lack's family?  Do you think the family is happy about Rebecca Skloot's presence and interpretation of their lives?

7. Biology Question: Did you learn more about cell division than you knew before from reading this book?  Did you know there were scientific journalists before reading this book? 

8. What does "informed consent" mean exactly?  What do you think about the murkiness of the law?  Do you think it should be stretched to include all genetic materials?  Would this create to many 'road blocks' in collecting, testing and treating?

9. What do you think about the "ill informed" cases?  Did you know that they used the mentally ill and prisoners to perform research before you read this book?

10. One of the biggest questions faced by our government is the topic of healthcare affordability.  Does Henrietta Lack's and her family's story change your opinion on how our healthcare system is currently set-up?