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Posted: September 4th, 2023

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot

Book review: “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot

“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot is an eye-opening and thought-provoking non-fiction book that explores the complex ethical and scientific issues surrounding the use of human tissues in medical research. Skloot’s in-depth research and narrative storytelling skillfully weave together the story of Henrietta Lacks, an African American woman whose cancer cells were taken without her knowledge or consent, and the scientific advancements that were made using her cells.

The Story of Henrietta Lacks:
Henrietta Lacks was a poor tobacco farmer from Virginia who died of cervical cancer in 1951. Unbeknownst to her or her family, a doctor at Johns Hopkins Hospital took a sample of her cancer cells and sent them to a lab. Henrietta’s cells were the first to be successfully cultured and grown in a lab, and they became known as HeLa cells. They were used in countless medical breakthroughs, including the development of the polio vaccine and advancements in cancer research.

The Ethical Implications:
While the scientific advancements made using HeLa cells are undoubtedly impressive, the story raises important ethical questions about informed consent and the use of human tissues in medical research. Henrietta Lacks and her family were never informed that her cells had been taken or used in research, and they never received any compensation for their contributions to science. Skloot’s exploration of these ethical issues is both informative and thought-provoking.

Narrative Storytelling:
What sets “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” apart from other non-fiction books is Skloot’s narrative storytelling style. She weaves together the story of Henrietta and her family with the scientific advancements made using her cells, creating a compelling and engaging read. Skloot’s research is impeccable, and she clearly spent years delving into the complex issues surrounding Henrietta’s story.

Overall, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” is a fascinating and important book that raises important ethical questions about the use of human tissues in medical research. Skloot’s narrative storytelling style and impeccable research make this book a must-read for anyone interested in the intersection of science and ethics.

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