Friday, June 22, 2012

Thoughts after reading on Henrietta Lacks

I finished reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. The story of Lackses trying to comprehend science stood out to me the most- it made me dizzy. Many of them did not have the necessary biology education to distinguish facts from fiction. Ms. Skloot recalls explaining the grains of truth in stories like Jurassic Park, half-human half-plant beings, and Henrietta clones to her remaining kin.

I studied genetics as an undergrad and still don’t fully comprehend existence of “immortal” cancer cells. More than anything, I feel a little spooked out by their existence. The part in the end about the HeLa cells being angels had my fizzed out brain nodding along.

As science becomes more technical and difficult to understand, whose responsibility is it to make the right policy decisions? The public may not fully grasp the issue. Or may be emotionally swayed by the creative science fiction out there. But to leave the power of decision in hands of few elite scientists does not seem like a democracy. Then what is the “best course” of action? One that promotes progress for humanity or one that protects the rights of individuals?

Can there be a guideline that everyone agrees on, of general principles, so that people can influence policy decisions even when they do not fully understand the issue? Maybe this is something everyone can vote on and apply to whatever issue is at hand.

These are the kinds of questions societies battle over, so I’m going to end my ponderings and pack for our family vacation. I can’t wait to meet this lazy kitten:

kittypine

Look at this fur ball of allergens!!! So cute.

kittypine

Okay, must go dig out my middle school closet to see if I have anything vacation-ey. I’ve been living in T-shirts and running shorts.

Have you read “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”?
What part stood out to you the most?

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