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Science Literacy

Science literacy – Why is it important to educate people to be scientifically literate? 

  • How does scientific literacy play a role in the treatment of Henrietta Lacks and her family?

  • What current issues are important for the general population to have a scientific understanding of?

  • What negative consequences result from a lack of scientific literacy? Give specific examples.


Immortality – What does it mean to be immortal?

  • Henrietta Lacks died in 1951 but her cells and her memory lives on. Does this make her immortal?
  • How do our cultural and our religious beliefs impact our understanding of immortality? 
  • How has our understanding of immortality changed as our scientific understanding and advances in science have grown?

Medical Ethics

Medical ethics – How has our understanding of ethics in medicine changed as a result of Henrietta Lacks’ story? (You do not have to discuss all of these issues)

  • Informed consent - Henrietta’s cells were taken without her knowledge and without her consent. Even if she had given permission she probably would not have understood the implications of her decision. 
  • Privacy - Henrietta’s genetic information is now widely available. Her descendants share some of her genetic information which means their information is also available. Her name was originally kept private but has since been shared outside of the medical community. 
  • Ownership of tissues - Millions of dollars are made every year on the cloning of Henrietta’s cells and the discoveries that have come from her cells. Who should own the tissues and genetic information that came from Henrietta’s cells? 

Informed Consent:



Racism in Medicine

Racism in Medicine – What is the impact of racism in medicine?

  • What role did racism play in the treatment of Henrietta Lacks, the collection and distribution of her cells, and the treatment of her family after her death?
  • How is racism still impacting medical outcomes for people of color?
  • How do historical examples of racism in medicine impact people of color today?