Non Fiction

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

We caught an interview of one of the actors of the movie on a show. Curious about the content, my husband and I had checked out the information about the story and also its release date.

We finally did watch the whole movie on HBO and were furiously Wiki’ing the entire time. The story of Henrietta Lacks was fascinating! Somewhere in the recesses of my mind I felt like I had heard the word HeLa before. I just could not place where.Not sure if the movie got the full impact right, I borrowed the book.

This book tells the tale of Henrietta Lacks who in 1951 went to Johns Hopkins complaining of a growth. She was diagnosed with cervical cancer that later took her life. The surprising part is that her cancer cells which were taken for study , survived and multiplied like none of the cells before. These cells have been the foundation on which geneticists have been working on for all these years. Gene therapy, polio vaccine are two of the numerous effects that followed.

The crux of the matter was not the taking of the cells but an absence of communication or explanation for the family, who were not equipped to understand the situation.

The author was filled with a drive to give more than a name to the donor of the cells, and expands on her life, her children and their progeny. Titbits of information that were provided to them and how they had to deal with people who did not always have their best interest in their hearts. The trials involved in their lives is not eased by the burden they carry of the unknown. This journey of more than a decade to write this book gave them more information, that leads to a sort of closure regarding the issue. The book is filled with details of the progress of science in the field to give us an idea of the magnitude of what we are reading about.

It was a very compelling story and definitely could start a conversation about the ‘greater good’ and where the line is drawn and ethical practices.

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