My Thoughts on The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

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I have to admit that this is one of those books that I read because everyone else was reading it.  I certainly would not seek it out on my own as I tend to stay away from the sciences.  That said, I am glad that I read it.  It raised a lot of important issues and made me realize that when I am in a doctor’s office I might want to read all of those forms I usually just carelessly sign.

Henrietta Lacks was being treated for cervical cancer at Johns Hopkins when they discovered that her cells did not die — they kept multiplying.  This gave scientists an everlasting source of cells to study.  Using the cells from Henrietta, they were able to do great things and develop life-changing drugs and medicines.

But no one ever told the family.  It took 20 years for the family to find out that her cells had become a multi-billion dollar industry, and her kids were so poor they could not afford to go to a doctor or get health insurance.

It’s an amazing story.  I am glad that I read the book.  I feel smarter for reading it.  But it is so sad at the same time, and since it is a true story, you cannot wave off the sadness with the assurance that it’s “just fiction”.  This actually happened/ is happening to this family, and I hope that the author is keeping her word to the family and putting proceeds from the book into education accounts for Henrietta’s grandchildren and great grandchildren.

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One thought on “My Thoughts on The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

    tina said:
    December 22, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    I was surprised at how much I liked this book. A good read. Well written. I felt a lot the same way about the family as you do. We all owe Henrietta a lot and most especially her family.

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