The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Rebecca Skloot

ImmortalLifeofHenriettaLacks-749798Henrietta Lacks was a poor black tobacco farmer who died of cancer. No one would have remembered her name if her cells hadn’t proven so unusual. Known as HeLa to scientists, her cells were taken without her knowledge in 1951 and, because of their unique properties, used to help develop the polio vaccine as well as in cloning, gene mapping, in vitro fertilization and more. Her cell’s have generated millions, but her family can’t afford health insurance. This well-written non-fiction book takes readers from the “colored” ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore where Henrietta was treated for cancer, to laboratories with freezers full of her cells, to her small hometown of Clover, Virginia, to East Baltimore where her children and grandchildren struggle to survive today. This is a riveting story about ethics in medicine. Do we control the very stuff of which we are made? (On a personal note, this review is dedicated to Freddie Gray who died in Baltimore in the spring of 2015 at the hands of the Baltimore police. Let’s hope his sacrifice sparks change.)  

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