Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - Rebecca Skloot

This well written nonfiction book is both a biography and an examination of how science intersects with consent. It also manages to touch on how segregation and entrenched racism impacted health care in the past (and how its remnants impact it to this day). Henrietta Lacks was an African-American woman whose cells were taken during medical procedures in the early 1950s, when science was struggling to grow cells in culture so that medical research could be conducted on them. Most cells died, but hers didn't, and they therefore became a medical mainstay. I don't want to summarize the book here, but sufficient to say that her cells, which are still alive today, have been vital to most medical research since they were initially used (without her knowledge/consent). Mrs. Lacks died soon after her cells were taken, but since then, her family has become aware of her contribution to science, as well as the fact that some companies have gotten wealthy selling her cells to researchers (the family has never received any money, and has only recently received recognition on her behalf). It's definitely a sticky issue with no easy answer. 

Sorry that this review is so jumbled, the TL/DR is: a well written book with much food for thought, Recommended.

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