Tuesday, July 5, 2011

"The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skloot

Henrietta Lacks died in 1951, but her cells live on in medical research. Today they are known as HeLa cells, but then they were cells from the cervical cancer that took her life. As a poor black woman, Henrietta didn't have access to good medical care. While she was able to get treatment at John's Hopkins, it was below par. The doctors treated her with radiation and took samples of her tumor. Those tumors were the first to ever continue to grow and thrive in a laboratory, even surviving shipping around the world. But, Henrietta didn't give permission for the cells to be taken, nor did her family. Why didn't the well-intentioned scientists get permission? What impact did the discovery of her living cells have on her family? How has this true story made an impact on medical research?

This book was difficult to put down. I was fascinated and shocked with Henrietta's story, as well as that of her family. Rebecca Skloot does a masterful job of telling both Henrietta's story and that of her cells and their importance. I read this for a work group discussion we are having at our all staff retreat in August, and definitely recommend it. There is so much to discuss!


  1. I think I'm the only one that hasn't read this book.