610 Medicine and Health

Completed: January 2018

Classification: 616.027

Title: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Author: Rebecca Skloot

“Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. Born a poor black tobacco farmer, her cancer cells – taken without her knowledge – became a multimillion-dollar industry and one of the most important tools in medicine. Yet Henrietta’s family did not learn of her ‘immortality’ until more than twenty years after her death, with devastating consequences . . .

Rebecca Skloot’s fascinating account is the story of the life, and afterlife, of one woman who changed the medical world forever.

Balancing the beauty and drama of scientific discovery with dark questions about who owns the stuff our bodies are made of, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is an extraordinary journey in search of the soul and story of a real woman, whose cells live on today in all four corners of the world.”

Review: I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. It follows Skloot as she tells the story of Henrietta Lacks, her death and the continuing life of her cells which have been a marvel and a boon to science. It speaks of the morality of science and asks who owns the parts of us we no longer use when those parts become a multi-million business. We meet the Lacks family and see how they have struggled with the discovery of their mother’s ‘immortality’, having their own cells and blood sought after yet not seeing a cent of the money made from them. The medical science has made so much from the cells of a family who find it difficult to pay for and manage their own health complaints is beyond ironic and enters the territory of deeply unfair.


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