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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot is the true story of a woman who died of cancer and how her cancerous cells lived (and live) on. It is also a story about the amazing and tragic impact this had on her family.
The author's detective work and efforts to gain the Lacks family trust and approval to bring Henrietta Lacks' life to print are also riveting.
The book touches briefly on ethical concerns. Are our cells "ours"? Should they be "for sale"? Is informed consent necessary in terms of what might happen to our cells/body parts as a result of medical care?
Interesting questions. What has happened in the past and what happens now regarding "our parts" is surprising and perhaps, unsettling.
The great fear of the medical establishment by some African-Americans is also portrayed in the book. This fear seems very justified as much medical experimentation was conducted upon African-Americans in the past.
So Many Medical Advances, Yet They Remain Out of Reach for Some
An unhappy component of this story is that Henrietta's children have no access to health coverage--especially sad given that their mother's cells have been instrumental in medical research, from the polio vaccine and cell cloning-technology to drug efficiency testing.
Another interesting discovery came in 1953 when Henrietta Lacks' cells provided the information needed to identify the actual number of chromosomes in human DNA.
If She Hasn't Helped You, She Has Certainly Helped Someone You Know
This is a great read. There is so much to think about and ponder while reading this book. The author paints a great picture of Henrietta Lacks as a human being.
I feel as if I know her in some way. Of course, my life (and everyone's) has been touched by her life. I finished this book with a feeling of gratitude.
Mary Wilmes, Library Assistant at Half Moon Library, has lived in Half Moon Bay since 2000--raising a child, chickens and home-made bread. She enjoys finding unusual books as well as knitting, learning Spanish and playing guitar and piano when she is not reading non-fiction (history, science, medicine, autobiography, and fashion) and fiction.