Tuesday, April 7, 2015
Review of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Author: Rebecca Skloot
Source: Bought used
Henrietta Lacks, as HeLa, is known to present-day scientists for her cells from cervical cancer. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells were taken without her knowledge and still live decades after her death. Cells descended from her may weigh more than 50M metric tons.
HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions. Yet Henrietta Lacks was buried in an unmarked grave.
Henrietta Lacks cells were taken without her permission when she went to John Hopkins to be treated for cervical cancer. Her family fought with John Hopkins for years saying they should have been compensated for the million dollar industry her cells started.
The author not only went into detail about HeLa cells and what they have done for science, but she also investigated Henrietta's life before she found out she had cancer and after she found out she had cancer and also her children's lives and how her dying at such a young age has affected them.
I thought the book was very thought out and through without being bogged down with information. She made it an interesting story while also including a lot of scientific information.
Henrietta's family has not had an easy time with the media attention brought on by their mothers cells. It also brings up a lot ethical issues such as should doctors be telling their patients they may make money from their cells? And are doctors clear enough on the consent forms?
This book made me think and I loved it. I gave it a 4/5.