Monday, May 02, 2011

Reading: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksThe Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Summary from Goodreads:

Rebecca Skloot first learned about HeLa cells more than a decade ago, while enrolled at community college. Named after Henrietta Lacks, a poor African-American woman born in 1920, the famed cells were taken from a tumor removed during Lacks s treatment for cervical cancer. While she died from the disease, her cancer cells proved uncommonly hearty, reproducing at an unheard-of rate, and years later, billions of these cells are used in laboratories around the world. 
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a story about science and so much more. Lacks died unaware that doctors would be using her cells to further advances in the scientific community and cashing in on such developments and never received a dime. In search of justice, Skloot seeks out Lacks's descendants to learn if they are aware of the famed cells and to see if they've derived any benefit from the important contribution to science their relative made. A fascinating discussion of the enduring legal and ethical questions that human-tissue research raises, Skloot's debut is a gem.
Fascinating and thought-provoking! Wow, I think this should be required reading. I'm not usually a fan of non-fiction (mainly because I use reading as an escape)... but this is just a phenomenal book. Rebecca Skloot did a wonderful job of explaining the medical advances made possible by using the cells of Henrietta Lacks, while telling the story of Henrietta and the Lacks family in a way that read like fiction. She tackled many ethical issues objectively, and there were times that I had to put the book down because my mind was stuck thinking about what I had just read.

I'm grateful that my neighborhood book club selected this book, as I'm not sure I would have picked it up on my own. I recommend this book to everyone!

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