The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks explores the life of a woman whose cells are used in medical laboratories worldwide. Henrietta Lacks, an African-American woman living in Georgia, discovered that she was terribly ill and sought the help of doctors. In the 1950s, when segregation was loud and proud, Henrietta received treatment from white doctors. While Henrietta slowly died, her doctors discovered that her cells were immortal. That is to say they needed no assistance in multiplying. Her cells could be multiplied and used repeatedly in various research efforts. Before and after Henrietta’s death, doctors collected tissue samples from her, without her or her family’s consent, and began using her cells in medical research. Doctors would eventually sell her cells for hundreds of dollars while her children and family lived in poverty. The total amount of money generated from sales of the HeLa cells is in the billions.
Rebecca Skloot spent years researching and writing this text. Her dedication to telling Henrietta’s story is evident, and readers will appreciate her commitment to presenting the facts in an accurate and bias-free manner. Many of the concepts discussed in the text are complex, but Skloot breaks down the issues so that individuals who have a loose grasp on science can understand. This book examines medical ethics and race and how the two intersect. It is a compelling read that will encourage readers to think about their medical rights and how little control we have over the tissue samples and blood taken during routine medical examinations. Skloot's debut novel is thoughtful and engaging.
You should read this book, because it is a fascinating account of a mother who died tragically, but whose cells continue to thrive today. The text will help you understand how African Americans have been used in medical experiments for years. If you are interested in learning more about medical experimentation and bioethics, this is the book for you.