The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot is the story of a virtually unknown woman who has become more than we could ever know. She was taken in to the hospital and, without her knowledge; cells were harvested from her body to be used for research purposes. No one in her family knew of this for some time during her entire life and even after her death. But now the truth has come out and scientists are still using Henrietta’s cells. But should they be allowed to do that without the consent of her family?
The Use of Cells
Henrietta Lacks was a tobacco farmer her entire life. She got married and had children of her own and lived out her entire life never knowing that any of her cells had been taken. She definitely didn’t realize that her cells were being used for anything at all and certainly not for scientific purposes. After her death her husband and children also did not know that their cells were being used again without their consent or even knowledge that the cells had been taken in the first place.
The Lacks family was poor their entire lives and yet the science that was done with Henrietta’s cells was worth millions to the scientific community. Henrietta’s daughter died in a mental institution and it’s unknown what ever happened to her, her other daughter finally learned of the cell harvesting and use and was outraged at the very idea. How could they have taken something of her mother’s without asking her first? Even more how could they then use it without so much as telling the family that they were going to do it? This story explores Henrietta’s life but it discovers more than that.
The story of Henrietta Lacks is the story of thousands of African Americans who were operated on or experimented on without their consent and without their knowledge. It is an entire history of a world where people could be taken in and fed false information about how they lived and what the medical community was doing. Henrietta Lacks is the one that many have to thank for cures to diseases and treatments for other diseases and yet hardly anyone has ever even heard her name before now. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks informs everyone of the true story of this hero in the world of American medicine.