The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - Rebecca Skloot

Title: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Author: Rebecca Skloot
Published: 2010
Pages: 396
Genre: Non-fiction
Rating: 4/5

Who, you might ask, is Henrietta Lacks (1920-1951) and why is she the subject of a book? On the surface, this short-lived African American Virginian seems an unlikely candidate for immortality. The most remarkable thing about her, some might argue, is that she had five children during her thirty-one years on earth. Actually, we all owe Ms. Lacks a great debt and some of us owe her our lives. As Rebecca Skloot tells us in this riveting human story, Henrietta was the involuntary donor of cells from her cancerous tumors that have been cultured to create an immortal cell line for medical research. These so-called HeLa cells have not only generated billions of dollars for the medical industry; they have helped uncover secrets of cancers, viruses, fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping. (via Goodreads)

Thoughts: I found this book very fascinating and thought it really should be mandatory for anybody who has been effected by any sort of research that has been done on HeLa cells.  Honestly I had never even heard of HeLa cells before I had read the book and now that I ask people if they know what HeLa cells are, very few people know about them, and yet most everybody has been affected by the research on them in some way.  I would highly recommend this book on so many levels because it not only deals with the reasons behind the HeLa cells, but also everything that ensued as a result of the research on HeLa cells.  A very fascinating read.

7664 / 15000 pages. 51% done!


I really liked the audio version of this one a lot. It's amazing what had happened because of her.
The Cul-de-Sac said…
This was one of my favorite reads of 2010. I loved the accessible yet compelling way Skloot explained Lacks' story.
Netherland said…
This is one of the most even handed reveiws of this topic I've read. Ms. Skloot's style is in the best narrative tradition. I literally hated to put the book down. It provides good insights into the poor relations that the biomedical industry has particularly with the African-American community and the tragedy that a loose attitude toward patient confidentiality and wishes can have. Yet her book is very even handed in discussing the damage that would occur if subject rights were asserted to the maximum. I take from this that it is high time that the research community address this in a proactive manner and develop a binding policy and statutory framework that makes clear the ground rules. I thank her for sharing such a powerful and touching story with all of us.

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