Who has the rights?

By Carol / November 22, 2011 /

The Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksThe Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Do you own the cells of your own body? Do you get to have a say in who uses your cells and for what purposes? You might think so. You might be wrong.

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS tells the story of a poor black woman who died of cervical cancer in the 1950s. Without her knowledge or consent, samples of her cancerous cells were removed and taken to a lab where scientists were attempting to create ‘immortal’ cells – cells that, kept in the right medium, could be made to live forever. They succeeded with Henrietta Lacks’ cells, creating the first immortal cell line.

Henrietta’s cells – called HeLa cells – still live today. Her cells have been and continue to be used in research worldwide. Research that has uncovered causes and cures of cancer, the cure for polio, the list is endless. Yet, it was 20 years after her death before Henrietta’s family learned that their mother’s cells continued to live.

This amazing non-fiction book, which reads like a novel, tells the incredible story of Henrietta Lacks, her cells, science, and her family’s quest to understand what happened to their mother.

This book raises a host of ethical, racial, and moral issues. It was a fascinating read. In this age of scientific breakthroughs, high costs for medical care, and the spirited debate about stem cell research, it might be good required reading for all of us.

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