Woodall's Reviews > The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
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Jul 14, 11

Read in July, 2011

Certainly, it sounds like a story of fiction, a story about a poor Southern black woman from the 1950’s, who was diagnosed with cancer, who unknowingly ‘donated’ her cancerous cells to the free health clinic where she received care, and who died a horrible, painful death---meanwhile those ‘donated’ cells, unlike any other cultured cells, grew, and grew, and grew--- causing a revolution for medical research and development, all the while unbeknownst to her family of her contribution to humanity! But alas, this is not a story of fiction but instead a page directly torn out of the American history books. The name, Henrietta Lacks, for years had been shrouded in innominatity while her cells, dubbed HeLa, were known by scientists world-round. Her contribution helped in the studies of cloning and gene mapping while also helping to develop life-saving vaccinations. Even to this day, HeLa cells are still the foundation of a multi-million dollar industry – while her family, still stricken with poverty, never received recognition or financial compensation for their mother’s sacrifice. Rebecca Skloot presents us with a captivating and personal story which illustrates the legal, ethical and scientific history of patients’ rights. Is there a balance between honor, ethics, profit, and research when helping humanity? What is the ultimate price? But most importantly, thank you Henrietta.

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