In the Library … The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – by Rebecca Skloot

On 8/11/13, I was watching the MHP show when I heard about the settlement for the family and heirs of Mrs. Lacks. They were completely unaware that scientists had taken her cells or what impact her cells had on so many nor did those who stole a piece of life from her at the time. It was a wow; a how didn’t I know moment and an overwhelming sense that finally; after having read this book a while ago, her family ~not only large, but has gone through some tough times …is finally being recognized and reimbursed for the contribution this woman made, though it took so long and may never really make up for what happened or what they all lost.
To get an idea, read a snippet of her life then go get Rebecca’s book
Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa.


She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells—taken without her knowledge—became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years.
If you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they’d weigh more than 50 million metric tons—as much as a hundred Empire State Buildings.
HeLa cells, were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects;   her cells helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions.
Yet, Henrietta Lacks remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave, stolen cells lost advantages and money
Now Rebecca Skloot, takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the “colored” ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to stark white laboratories with freezers full of HeLa cells; from Henrietta’s small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia—a land of wooden slave quarters, faith healings, and voodoo—to East Baltimore today, where her children and grandchildren live and struggle with the legacy of her cells.
Henrietta’s family did not learn of her “immortality” until more than twenty years after her death, when scientists investigating HeLa began using her husband and children in research without informed consent. And though the cells had launched a multimillion-dollar industry that sells human biological materials, her family never saw any of the profits. As Rebecca Skloot so brilliantly shows, the story of the Lacks family—past and present—is inextricably connected to the dark history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethicist, and the legal battles over whether we control the stuff we are made of.
Over the decade it took to uncover this story, Rebecca became enmeshed in the lives of the Lacks family—especially Henrietta’s daughter Deborah, who was devastated to learn about her mother’s cells. She was consumed with questions: Had scientists cloned her mother? Did it hurt her when researchers infected her cells with viruses and shot them into space? What happened to her sister, Elsie, who died in a mental institution at the age of fifteen? And if her mother was so important to medicine, why couldn’t her children afford health insurance?           Intimate in feeling, astonishing in scope, and impossible to put down, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks captures the beauty and drama of scientific discovery, as well as its human consequences.

Interestingly, this book is still being debated by folks who feel it could possibly be an exploitation of Mrs. lacks and the family for a piece of the big pie or settlement after having done a decade of research, getting personally involved while reports stated that she used personal funds.  Others talk about the family like trash and fail to see why they should be given reparations. We must not ignore or deny, yes realize how important race, ethics in the healthcare industry or lack of them and the attempts to reform these issues  still exist today. I feel that Rebecca set off a series of events that led to this family not only finding out things about their mother, but also recouped some if only a fraction of their mother and the contribution she made.  In my opinion as a mom and daughter, whatever the settlement was it clearly would never ever be enough since they stole her cells and Mrs. Lacks lost her battle to cancer. Sadly, people of colour were treated so poorly in 1951 and while this was and still is a fantastic scientific discovery, it is also exposes the widespread discrimination on so many levels. ~Nativegrl77

 Resource: Rebecca Skloot’s book