Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

by Rebecca Skloot
New York : Crown Publishers, c2010.

Henrietta Lacks died of cervical cancer in the 1950s. Before she died, a doctor took cancerous cells and used them to create the first cell culture of human cells, which has gone on to advance medical science tremendously. But most people only knew these as HeLa, and not the woman behind the cells - her family didn't even know her cells were still alive.

Skloot tells the story of Henrietta and her family as well as delving into science and ethics in the medical profession. Her take is very personal, as she describes the way in which she gained the trust of the Lacks family and the conversations she had with them in addition to recreating the events of the 1950s and on.

I was really excited when the library book discussion that I facilitate picked this as one of our reads this year. I've been meaning to get to it since the book came out, and it finally gave me the impetus to do so. There's so much to this book - the personal stories, medical history, ethics - that it made an excellent choice for our book discussion, which went past our normal time to end and a few of us felt we could have gone on for another hour. This truly thought-provoking book has a little bit of everything, and I highly recommend it. You may not agree with everything, but you'll surely learning something.

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