Cancer cells as the future

Henrietta Lacks is especially known due to the use of her cells being the foundation for various cures. The scientists who used her cells, without her permission, is similar to the Oankali’s ooloi need to save those with incurable diseases. Nikanj notes “humans called the condition cancer. To them, it was hated disease. To the Oankali, it was a treasure. It was beauty beyond Human comprehension” (551). The ooloi, like scientists, use cancerous cells to explore genetics for trade. They feel as if the exploration is for the good of humanity. Not only does it eradicate cancer, similar to the scientists with Henrietta Lacks cells cured polio, it advances the Oankali. 

Octavia Butler is always exploring different facets of consent, which range from sexual to medical. Within Lilith’s Brood we see first hand how outsiders can view humans self-destructive ways. Humans within the text, specifically Tomas and Jesusa, chose for a very long time to suffer because they felt it was their duty to do so. However, medical help from Jodahs changed their mind on taking better care of themselves. If Lacks was able to have the kind of service the ooloi provide her family would have been more giving of her cells. The difference between the medical service within Lacks and Oankali time are race relations. The Oankali see no humans race, while Lack’s doctors only saw her race. The Oankali and Lack’s doctors wished to help, but the consent is usually a step missed. Humans tend to want to be asked before their insides are manipulated in various ways, even if it is helpful to them. The Oankali have taken a lot away from humans, which raised apprehension toward them. There should be a level of trust between a medical examiner and the examinee. Which I think, Butler tries to comment on what consent really means which is definitely up for debate in both Henrietta Lacks and Tomas and Jesusa’s case.

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