Tuesday, August 16, 2011


The Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksThe Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Very interesting book about a black woman who, in 1951, unknowingly donated some of her cancer cell tissue which provided limitless groundbreaking for science and technology ever since. Henrietta Lacks was a poor woman from slavery ancestry who provided for her husband and children as best she could until she got sick and went to Johns Hopkins for treatment. While there, she received radiation therapy to cure the cancer which eventually took her life. Her cells were taken for research and found to multiply unlike any cells ever seen to that point in history. Her cells do not die. To date, there are enough cells from Henrietta to circle the Earth three times. This fascinating story tells about the ethics concerning tissue donation when the donor is not aware of the donation nor of the ramifications of donating, as well as the multi-billion dollar industry surrounding the use of donated tissue. It is a sad tale because the Lacks family was cheated out of their share of the profits made from the use of Henrietta's cells, in fact they can't even afford health insurance for their family. The argument for and against informed consent is dissected, does consent help or hinder scientific research? Really great read and lots of questions to answer about tissue research.

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