Category Archives: Book Comments – The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Part 4

What did you think about the reading?

The reading throughout the book was great. Rebecca Skloot’s diction and emotion drew the reader in from the very first page. The sections at the end of the book describe the moral trials and tribulations of taking someone’s cells without permission and leave some hope for the Lacks family.

What did you learn?

This book has thought me about not only the life of Henrietta Lacks, but the legacy of her cells and the history of medicine. The book started with the life of Henrietta and her family before the fame and fortune, while snapping from one character to the next. By the time Henrietta dies, it’s  as if you know her and feel sorry as she passes away. At the same time we learn how Henrietta’s cells cultured in Doctor Gey’s laboratory into the first immortal human cells. Along the way the book has also described many of the immoral practices of medicine at the time. Further into the book we learn how HeLa started multi million dollar businesses that nearly crumbled because of the cell’s infectious properties; how the cell created countless drugs and saved countless lives; and how the cell lead to many regulations in medicine. In Part 3 we find out that the cells had little affect on the family, which was still poor despite HeLa’s success. We also discover the emotional and physical perils the family has gone through because of the cells and in general. Through the process the reader learns that the family is proud of their mother’s cells, but just wants enough money to take care of themselves. Finally Skloot ends by discussing the morality of taking the cells. Although taking the cells was ethical, the question of consent and compensation is still up for debate and unresolved.

What questions do you still have?

How will the HeLa issue end for the Lacks family? Will they ever get compensation? Will more laws be put in place for or against informed consent for medical studies? Did this book help put the Lacks family at ease?