Review: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks By Rebecca Skloot

 

This review is a little conflicting. It is a story that needed to be told. A must read for anyone, we’ve all been helped by the medical breakthroughs that came from HeLa cells taken from Henrietta Lacks as she lay dying. This book details the life of Henrietta Lacks, as well as that of her family who continues to live very poor and with many health problems of their own, and the doctors, researchers, and medical field that have all been successful because of her cells. Doctors had been trying for years to culture cells taken from patients in order to do medical research. None survived until Henrietta Lacks cells (HeLa cells) were taken as she was dying from cervical cancer. From this many doctors became successful researchers, making medical discoveries and working towards cures and vaccinations. In the years many doctors were thriving, Henrietta’s family was suffering extreme poverty that, to this day, they still have not escaped. Ironically, without health insurance or money for health care, her family’s health issues continue unaddressed. It seems no one gave the Lackses a second thought once HeLa cells were taken. I really felt for Henrietta’s children and grandchildren – they had all clearly been affected by this. The story highlights issues with medical ethics, racial issues in America, and the US healthcare system. Nothing about what happened to the Lacks family was illegal. I was fascinated by the story, and disgusted by the actions of the white doctors against the poor black patients they were supposed to be helping. So in this sense the book was well-written, except that the author just seemed so awful too! She didn’t seem to show much respect for the Lacks family. Many times throughout the book I felt like she added details of their personal lives that were not important but just underlined the fact that she was dealing with poor, uneducated black people. It felt incredibly disrespectful. All the time she was showcasing the fact that the family never received money while the white doctors made a fortune she was reiterating that she wouldn’t be giving them any money from her book.  I kept wondering why she would keep mentioning that in the book.  There was also just too much about the author and her diary of writing the book. I have read plenty of non-fiction where the author doesn’t continue to talk about themselves and how hard it is to write a book. I was so unimpressed with her that I was sorry my money went to her. So read the book – but take it out from your local library!

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One thought on “Review: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks By Rebecca Skloot

  1. Hi. When I read this a hadn’t picked up on some of the things you mentioned. Im usually a scifi reader. But this story was absolutely amazing! I mean , when it comes to the exploitation of black bodies, this country has been prolific. Thanks for your review. Cheers!

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