Ethical Approaches, Case Study Analysis

Decision-making processes are essential in our day to day lives. They enable us to generate solutions in problem-solving affairs. However, for one to identify a particular decision-making process, they must first determine an effective philosophical approach to use. The method must be sufficient enough to assist the individual in obtaining a solution when making a particular decision.  In typical health scenarios, decision making should apply both from the patients in need as well as their families and the medics. There are four basic approaches of medical care ethics used to evaluate the benefits and challenges of medical practices. For a medical practice to be ethical, it has to adhere to the principles of beneficence, justice, non-, and autonomy. In the case study presented, the philosophical approach that would apply is justice.

The principle of justice applies to Henrietta’s case because it requires that the advantages of experimental medical procedures must be distributed equitably and equally among participants and society. When performing any experimental medical procedures, health care providers should focus on four critical aspects of justice. These are; rights and obligations, proper resource distribution, conflicts with the legislation and competing needs. Based on Henrietta’s case we see that after succumbing to cancer, her tumor cells were removed by the doctors and found to be able to thrive in the laboratory. Over seventy-four thousand studies then used her tumor cells for research related studies (Zimmer, 2013). Even as this happens, the family is not made aware. Henrietta died poor and was never consulted by the doctors on whether any of her vitals should be used for research purpose after her death.  Though Henrietta’s genome had spread all around the world and brought about various research topics on the HeLa cells, the family is denied profits from these studies for years (Zimmer, 2013) In this case, justice applies in the sense that, since Henrietta’s genome brought about knowledge and some benefits, the family ought to have been made aware.  The National Institute of Health was also supposed to compensate the family and ensure that they too share on some of the benefits that came along with the research studies (Zimmer, 2013). Furthermore, they were denied their justice when the doctors failed to seek their approval first before proceeding with removing Henrietta’s tumor cells for research.

Basing on my philosophical approach, I would ensure that I resolve the ethical dilemma facing the family by making sure they receive their rights of justice. I would ensure that first, before going ahead and removing any vital organ from the patient, I make sure that I seek approval from the patient.  Many people have their dying wishes. Some donate their bodies for scientific research studies. However, until this agreement is passed, it is unethical for the medical practitioners to remove the organs for their studies. If the patient happens to die without any dying wishes, the family should be called and shown their beloved one before proceeding with any further arrangements. If at all a significant and unique aspect has been discovered on the dead body, that may be an excellent asset for research; the family should be made aware and compensated.

Supposing I was one of the doctor’s in Henrietta’s case, I would not have made the same choices without seeking approval from the family.  By so doing it portrays an act of selfishness and injustice. The doctors’ choice to use Henrietta’s tumor cells for research was a great asset to the world of research (Zimmer, 2013). Even though this is true, the family does not benefit as they are not made aware for long. Justice should always prevail.



Zimmer, C. (2013). A Family Consents to a Medical Gift, 62 Years Later. Retrieved from

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