Thursday, 27 October 2011

Thoughts: The Immrotal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

The story about Henrietta Lacks cannot be complete when it isn't told along with the cancerous cells taken from her cervix, which proved to be immortal, and thus changed science. The HeLa cells were cultured and distributed all over the world bringing forward a new era of cellular research and advances in scientific technology as well as medical treatments. They were used in many experiments, such as vaccine research and cloning, the cells even went to space. Yet, very little is known about the woman, her life or her family. Rebecca Skloot attempted to change this.

Now I know that the real sad part of the story is the devastation of a family when its unifying force, a mother, a wife or a sister is taken away. And though the valuable cells should be a source of pride for the family they got to know about it far too late. Not to mention any monetary compensation. Millions or even billions of dollars were made out of the HeLa cells but still the family couldn't afford to pay their own medical bills.

I also learned about informed consent and that it wasn't 'law', which means it wasn't necessary to inform a patient about the medical procedures he or she is going to take in the 50s. Very much has changes since.

The book was light on the scientific side, everybody can understand what is going on in this book. I struggled with the cell's importance, of which I was remembered every other page although I already grasped it with the first chapter.

It is remarkable that Skloot was finally able to get Henrietta's story, because of being persistent, calling the family over and over to get them spill the beans, but I can't get rid of the feeling that she might have been a real pain in the a.. by doing so.

Final words: I learned about 'them' cells.

1 comment:

  1. I have this on my kindle, I really should read it. It's a shame it doesn't go into more detail about the science though, I bet that would have been fascinating.