What does this 2017 Film about the origins of the HELA cell line used in biomedical research, and the family of ‘donor’ Henrietta Lacks, show us about the ramifying effects of the loss of Henrietta on her children and extended family? Would it have been more true to the rich source material (a best-selling book on this family’s experiences) to have created a mini-series instead of a single film? How does the story highlight the ethical problems involved with taking samples from patients, propagating, distributing and using them for research without informing them or gaining their consent? What are the arguments against requiring fully informed consent for potential research purposes when samples are taken, and do they carry the water in cases like the HELA cell line? How does the film illustrate the stark contrast in medical care typically afforded black Americans in the 1950s, as opposed to white Americans? How does the fate of Elsie Lacks, Henrietta’s disabled daughter, who died at the Crownsville Hospital for the Negro Insane of Maryland, illustrate systematic racism in place at the time?

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