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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Left With a Lasting Impression


I don't know how I missed this book when it first came out.  It was even awarded a Discover award from Barnes and Noble, and I missed it.  I'm glad is was promoted again when it came out in paperback.

What an interesting book.  It tells the tale of the cells taken from Henrietta Lacks without her knowledge or permission and how they changed the course of medicine, making possible so many of the medications and advancements we know today.  It also tells the story of the hardship faced my Henrietta Lacks and her children.  As Henrietta's cells multiplied and flourished, her orphaned children faced poverty and abuse.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot: Book CoverI was shocked when I realized, the cells discussed in this book started the cell line that I had used when I worked in a lab in college.  And like so many others, I had no idea the history behind them.  I didn't realize they came from cervical cancer cells removed from an African American woman in the 1950s.  I didn't realize that though the lab I worked in paid hundreds, probably thousands of dollars for these cells, while her children couldn't even afford medical insurance. Henrietta's cells led to the creation of medications her children needed, but couldn't get.

The story is not all sad though.  There is courage, determination, and hope.  This book would be an excellent choice for a book group because there are so many things to discuss--the civil rights movement, poverty and access to medical care, the ethics of taking tissue samples and using them for profit, and privacy issues.

I predict this leave quite an impression on you.  It may not leave an immortal impression, but it will last a very long time.

1 comment:

  1. It is a great book! And so interesting about what these cells have done for the world of research and medicine.