Kathie's Reviews > The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
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's review
Dec 21, 2010

really liked it
Read from December 21, 2010 to January 03, 2011

** spoiler alert ** I'm not so sure I'm ready to say the writing was great, but wow, Rebecca Skloot is a passionate researcher! The cronology and organization of the material was pretty amazing. I love it when a book starts out, "none of the names have been changed" and everything is true, checked and re-checked for error,etc. The writer got interested in the Lacks Family early in her education and learned everything she could in order to tell this story. I love it that it was all new information for me and quite unbelievable. Also, amazing that after everything is brought to the surface about these HELA cancer cells that were taken (without Henritta or her family's knowledge)grown and sent around the world, used to discover cures and treatment for ailments and diseases such as polio, HIV, HPV, create vaccines and much more, continue to divide and multiply even today. That cells from some individuals (and we have no idea who or how many) are special,different and useful.

The book discusses the scary times in the 1950's as far as research subjects and the idea that black people were not treated as human beings in general but especially around this issue. The book is so enlightening and allows us to continue to discover how much we do not know (unless someone like Rebecca Skloot educates us) around cultural/spiritual beliefs of black Americans, the pervasiveness of undereducation, deep poverty and how it effects every aspect of a family for generations. I am convinced, although the author leaves us hanging somewhat, that very large sums of money was made from the harvesting of Henritta's cells, but the issues of how her family might benefit some way financially are never clear. The ethical issues here are tough and changing by the moment. Decisions and determinations are being made at this moment and we should all be informed so that we know what is happening around our own tissue/cells. I never even thought that every time something is removed (bioposy/culture, appendix, etc) from your body, you have likely signed a form at the hospital that your own cells and tissue are no longer yours. If you now sign a form this is new!

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