The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot is a book that is difficult to summarize. This book is partly about the family of Henrietta Lacks. It is about the memories they have of her, the memories they wish they had of her, about their families and about each of their lives. Secondly, this book seems to be about Henrietta Lacks's cancer cells and their amazing reproduction into cells that never died but kept growing. The scientific advances caused by these cells are momentous and have shaped medical history. In fact, the progress that scientists are making in the medical field, as a result of the duplicated cells from Henrietta, is continuing to this day. Thirdly, it could be said that this book is about the struggle that occurred when Henrietta's family found out that gargantuan medical advances were occurring as a result of their relative while they received no information about any of it. This book is partly about that moral and ethical wrestling in which we engage when we begin questioning the rightness and wrongness of all sides of that argument. In fact, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is about all these things and more. It is noteworthy for this very reason: it has become a forum for debate and discussion in many areas in addition to those mentioned.
This book relates to being human and Christian in an interconnected world in many ways. One of the ways it relates to our focus is because it reflects our "interconnected" approach to learning. The book interconnects multiple topics and questions, pulling together the various subject areas into one piece of writing. One single theme does not exist on its own, nor is it segregated from the others. Instead, all of the themes become tangled together and overlap each other. In the same way, this course will involve an overlapping of all our subject areas, and those subjects will inevitably become tangled in each other. Another way this book relates to our being human and Christian in an interconnected world is by bringing to our attention our own Christian faith. This book challenges our worldview and forces us to think about our beliefs--our Christian faith, the moral and ethical principles to which we adhere. When reading this book one must try to decide what one believes about who was right--the doctors and scientists, Henrietta's family--according to one's Christian principles of right and wrong. Similarly, when wrangling with the ethics of the conflict of Henrietta's family and the medical professionals, our humanity is highlighted. One is urged to consider not only how to apply standards of Christian morality to that situation, but also had to think about how to apply standards of morality in terms of humanity. Empathy and compassion can be applied to Henrietta's family as one imagines how he or she might feel in their situation. In our humanness, Henrietta's family and we are on the same level, and before one draws conclusions one needs to understand how he or she might feel if put in a similar position as Henrietta's family members. Contrarily, one can apply one's sense of being human to the medical professionals' point of view, finding agreement and detecting "good intentions" in their assumptions and efforts. There are no clear answers, but this book encourages us to thoughtfully establish a position on which to stand, no matter what "side" we take.
This book caused me to stop and think about the Biblical basis on which I stand when developing conclusions about issues--scientific, moral, and so on. I found it difficult to apply Biblical standards directly to this issues raised by the book. Right and wrong became unclear. Some dilemmas were part right, part wrong, and part impossible to define. When this occurred, especially to more than one approach to an issue, it became close to impossible for me to decide which position was "more right," "less right," or "more wrong." I learned that I may think I can come to a conclusion reasonably when I am presented with issues close to me in my life and clear for me to understand, but when tackled with tougher issues that are hard to separate from each other, my thinking skills become weaker and more my abilities seem to become thinner. I did, however, receive good practice in approaching the discussions we will approach in this course and throughout my learning experience in college. I learned to keep my mind as open as possible, to clearly define arguments, and to accept that conclusions are not always easily reached.