All posts by phillipat

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Part 4

What I thought:

Being that “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” doesn’t have a part 4, this review will be a general look back on the entire book, however, this review will include the “Afterword” and “Where are they now” part of the book as well.  The “Where are they now” portion answered many of my questions after the end of Part Three. and while Alfred is in jail, I still find it encouraging that Zakaariyya choose to be peaceful and that Mr. Patillo continues to hold his “Henrietta Conference” The afterword was quite possibly the most important section of the book for it clearly explained that one question of “What is ethically right to take Henrietta’s cells?” To this day, the answer to that question is yes it was, but the debate today goes farther than that to tissue ownership and right. I believe, that I have the right that should my tissue be taken, that I should know what is done with it, however should I be paid, not necessarily because I don’t need that tissue. However when researchers say that we should just give our tissues for the good of society, now that isn’t a reason at all. On the debate of commercialization of medical research, I agree greatly with Mr. Blumberg in saying that yes commercialization is good and why shouldn’t you make money however on the down side, because of that researchers have become entrepreneurs. Overall was a moving plethora of information well combined into an enjoyable story that addresses multiple heated issues today in the world tissue genetics and usage. But out of the entire book, I must say that my favorite part was the last line where Ms. Skloot quotes Sonny, Deborah’s brother, about whether or not the family would want to stop the research with the HeLa cells. “I just hope Hopkins and some of the other folks who benefited off her cells will do something to honor her and make right with the family.” I hope too that this book makes a difference and that the Lacks family will be honored and known.

What I learned:

I learned from this non-fiction book about a lady named Henrietta Lacks. Mrs. Lacks had cervical cancer and when a doctor at Johns Hopkins University took a piece of her cancerous tissue, he discovered that her cells were very special indeed. Her cells, called HeLa, were so special that 50 years later, her cells would still be multiplying and being used and most labs in the world in a multimillion dollar industry. Mrs. Lacks died in 1951 from cervical cancer and her family had no idea until 20 years later that her cells even still did not exist nor did they ever receive any kind of payment for the wealth that her cells created. Also even though then or now it wasn’t ethically wrong to take her tissue cells, she nor her family new that her tissue had been taken. The accumulation of this story is the writer of this book Ms. Rebecca Skloot, unveiled the question behind who was Henrietta Lacks and her family and their struggles to learn about the beloved mother and sister. Finally I learned that tissue sampling could at a point in time become an actual issue, and then the question of commercialization vs. research will come in to play. Overall, Mrs. Lacks and her family was treated terribly by the world but what I learned most from this book, is that you don’t give up or be pushed around, you learn and question and find out for yourself the answers to the questions you seek.

Questions I have:

With the book at a close, there are few questions however there is one question that will only be answered by time. Where will the tissue sampling issue go? What will happen to a person’s right to their removed tissue? Will this become a “bona-fide issue?”