Friday, November 4, 2011

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

By Rebecca Skloot

Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells—taken without her knowledge in 1951—became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, and more. Henrietta’s cells have been bought and sold by the billions, yet she remains virtually unknown, and her family can’t afford health insurance. This phenomenal New York Times bestseller tells a riveting story of the collision between ethics, race, and medicine; of scientific discovery and faith healing; and of a daughter consumed with questions about the mother she never knew.

Okay, here's a book I would never have read if not for college classes. This book made me sick. I can't believe all the stuff that goes on that we don't know about; I'm kinda hoping that Ms. Skloot was a bit elaborate in her telling of the story of Henrietta and her family and her cells. There's a lot of science in this book that is downright interesting enough that I would have loved to read just the science stuff because the human interest behind the story is tragic and horror-filled. Take a black family that doesn't much mind about incest, isn't able to educate themselves, is abusive, molesters, and has a case of murder and you have a very brief history of the Lack's misfortune. Take the doctor and science point of view about taking a woman's cells without her knowledge and then you start to wonder...what else are they doing that we don't know about? This book made me slightly paranoid of doctors. I can't and won't reccommend this book because of the mention of abuse and incest and molestation among other racial and ethical crimes. It's an emotionally hard book to read, but extremely well-written and, as far as I can tell, well-researched. If you have a second go look up Henrietta online. It's just too interesting not to know the science part of her life. Chances are, someone in your family is alive today because Henrietta died...

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