The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

IMG_3496.JPG⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is easily one of the best nonfiction books I’ve ever read (or listened to, as this was an audiobook). Deeply moving, I experienced so many emotions while listening to this book: shock, outrage, sympathy, anger, frustration, fear, astonishment, enlightenment and wonder. I was astounded when I read about how the cancerous cells of a young, poor, black woman were used after her death, and without her consent, to develop vaccines and other equally valuable medical and scientific breakthroughs to benefit countless people, while her own family languished in abject poverty. Henrietta’s cells are still alive today and continue to be used although she died in 1951. They have been multiplied to a number that if measured, according to one assertion, would wrap around the earth three times!! That’s a whole lot of cells considering the fact that about 5,000 could fit on the tip of a pin. Although most of us have probably benefited in one way or other from Henrietta’s cells in the form of medicines, vaccines, etc., the problem is her family didn’t get anything, and could not even afford medical care. Most of them didn’t have medical insurance. This is unjust and disconcerting considering the family never truly consented to having Henrietta’s cells used for medical research, her name (or by extention, theirs) revealed, and her privileged medical information exposed to the world. This was clearly an invasion of privacy in the severist form and my heart went out to the family. I learned so much while listenting to this book; terms such as bioethics, civil liberties, and informed consent were spoken of. I found myself thinking about how important it is to take a closer look at documents that are presented for signature before having medical procedures performed in doctors’ offices, hospitals, etc. I also pondered how some medical professionals and others related to the field can take advantage of the minimally educated, unsuspecting and underprivileged individuals to advance their own objectives; exploiting those who lack knowledge of complex medical terminology and biological science without regard for the humiliation, pain and suffering they may cause to fellow human beings in the process. I came away from the book feeling sad, as though the story was somehow incomplete in some way. I wanted more justice for the family-for them to have been compensated for the way they were dealt with. I salute Rebecca Skloot for taking on such a monumental task as writing this book, which I read took roughly 10 years of research before its completion. I felt it was masterfully written and I recommend it to anyone breathing.