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.


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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