Throwback Thursday – The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

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Throwback Thursday is hosted by Renee of It’s Book Talk.  This meme was created to share old favorites and/or books published over a year ago.  Today I’m going to be sharing an incredibly profound book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.

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Why I chose this book:

This book was unlike any other I’d read.  I don’t read or post a lot of non-fiction books, but when I was perusing an independent book store while on vacation a while back, and it was on display and highly recommended to me by one of the workers, I decided to download the audiobook and listen to it.  I’d heard of it, but wasn’t sure what it was about.  O….M….Goodness.  I was blown away.  I couldn’t believe that Henrietta Lacks could have possibly affected my own life, and/or the lives of my loved ones.  My emotions were all over the place while getting through this book, but mostly I kept thinking this …

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Henrietta and her family were wronged in so many unimaginable ways.

Rebecca Skloot spent approximately a decade researching and writing this book before it was published.  It involves a young, underprivileged black woman who died of cervical cancer, but her cancer cells kept multiplying after her death in 1951, and they continue to live on in laboratories today.  They’ve been used to develop treatments and vaccines that many of us have probably benefited from.  Apparently the cells are so prolific that at last count they could wrap around the Earth several times.  But there’s much, much more to this story.  Although so many people, including medical professionals, profited from Henrietta’s cells, her family languished in abject poverty, some without medical insurance.  AND, consent from Henrietta or her family was never given to use Henrietta’s cells for research or otherwise.  See my more in-depth review here.

You might recall that the movie was released on HBO earlier this year.  Oprah Winfrey starred in it as Henrietta’s daughter, Deborah Lacks.  It was a good effort, but the book is exceedingly more detailed.  I recommend this book to the entire world.


Have you heard of, or read, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks?  What did you think?  I’d love to know your thoughts.

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Thank you for stopping by.  Have a wonderful day.

 

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.