The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

By Rebecca Skloot

I picked up this book in preparation for a talk the author will give near my home later this month. I plan to attend the speech and want to make sure I have read the book from cover to cover so that I may ask an informed question, should the opportunity present itself.

The cells of Henrietta Lacks were taken without her knowledge and became one of the most important tools in medicine. The cells, called HeLa, helped develop the Polio vaccine and unmasked the secrets of cancer, viruses and the atom bomb’s effects. They also helped advance invitro fertilization, cloning and gene mapping. The cells launched a multi-million dollar industry. At the same time, her family couldn’t afford health insurance.

The family of Henrietta Lacks learned about the HeLa cells more than 20 years after her death. Check out this story of race, poverty and medicine.