The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks Book Summary - The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks Book explained in key points
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The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks summary

Rebecca Skloot

How one woman's cells changed scientific thinking forever.

4.3 (120 ratings)
25 mins

Brief summary

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks tells the captivating story of Henrietta Lacks, whose cells were unknowingly taken and used for groundbreaking medical research.
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    The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks
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    Henrietta Lacks was a poor black American woman who died of an extremely aggressive form of cancer.

    On August 1, 1920, in Roanoke, Virginia, a small girl who would change medical science forever was born. Her name was Henrietta.

    Like most of her family, young Henrietta helped out on their tobacco farm, harvesting the crop and hauling the leaves to South Boston to be sold.

    When she wasn’t working, young Henrietta played with her cousin, David Lacks – nicknamed Day.

    Henrietta married Day when she was 20 and the couple soon began having children. But these were difficult times for small farmers, and the family were struggling financially. So Henrietta and Day decided to move to Sparrows Point, near Baltimore.

    A decade later, in early 1951, Henrietta walked into the designated coloreds-only examination room of Johns Hopkins gynecology center. She’d discovered a lump on her cervix.

    After doctors took a sample and rushed it to the pathology lab for diagnosis, they sent Henrietta home. There, she quickly returned to her usual daily routine: looking after her children, cooking for her family and keeping the house in order.

    For a while at least, life continued as normal.

    Then her biopsy results arrived: Henrietta had epidermoid carcinoma of the cervix, stage I.

    At the time, Johns Hopkins were using radium – a radioactive material – to treat cervical cancer. But while radium is extremely effective at killing cancer cells, this comes at a cost: it also destroys any other cells it comes into contact with. Indeed, radium is so powerful that, in high doses, it can even burn the patient’s skin.

    Giving her official consent for any treatments or surgery the doctors deemed necessary, Henrietta was once again led to the Johns Hopkins ward for colored women.

    There, Henrietta endured hours upon hours of excruciating radium exposure – the first of many treatments she’d receive over the course of the year.

    Even though these treatments were intensive, to the extent that much of her body was visibly burned, they were ultimately ineffective.

    Henrietta Lacks died on October 4, 1951.

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    What is The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks about?

    The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks tells the story of a poor tobacco farmer who died from cervical cancer, and her cell strand, HeLa, which scientists used to develop a cure for polio and other diseases. In a fascinating and revealing investigation, author Rebecca Skloot uncovers the history of Henrietta and her family, of the exploitation of black Americans by the medical industry, and of Henrietta’s immortal cells.

    The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks Review

    The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (2010) unveils the untold story of Henrietta Lacks and her immortal cells, making it a must-read for everyone. Here's why this book stands out:

    • It sheds light on the ethical issues surrounding the use of human cells in scientific research.
       
    • The book combines science, history, and biography to create a compelling narrative.
       
    • It raises important questions about race, class, and medical ethics that are still relevant today.
      Dive into the fascinating world of Henrietta Lacks and her immortal cells by picking up a copy of this book.

    Best quote from The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks

    And the dead have no right to privacy – even if part of them is still alive.

    —Rebecca Skloot
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    Who should read The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks?

    • Anyone interested in the history of medicine
    • Anyone interested in the history of the relationship between black Americans and the US medical industry

    About the Author

    Rebecca Skloot is an award-winning science writer whose articles have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Discover and others. She has also worked as a correspondent for NPR and PBS. In 2010, Skloot sold the film rights for The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks to Alan Ball and Oprah Winfrey.

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    The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks?

    The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks explores the ethical issues surrounding the use of human cells in medical research.

    How long does it take to read The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks?

    The reading time for The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks varies, but it typically takes around 12 hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in 15 minutes.

    Is The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a captivating and thought-provoking read that delves into scientific ethics, race, and history.

    Who is the author of The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks?

    The author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is Rebecca Skloot.

    How many chapters are in The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks?

    The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot has 38 chapters. They are as follows: Prologue

    1. The Exam...
    2. Clover
    3. Diagnosis and Treatment
    4. The Birth of HeLa...
    5. Blackness Be Spreadin All Inside...
    6. The Death and Life of Cell Culture...
    7. A Miserable Specimen...
    8. Progress Is a New Idea...
    9. The HeLa Bomb
    10. The HeLa Factory
    11. The First Immortal Woman...
    12. The Storm
    13. The Long Road to Clover
    14. Helen Lane
    15. Too Young to Remember...
    16. Legal Tender
    17. Night Doctors
    18. All That's My Mother...
    19. The Most Critical Time on Earth
    20. The Hayflick Limit
    21. The Road to Tedco
    22. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks the Sequel...
    23. The Medical Records
    24. The Grants Committee...
    25. The God in Science
    26. The Hospital for the Negro Insane
    27. Stranger Than Fiction...
    28. Another Surprise
    29. The Grand Opening
    30. Zakariyya
    31. Hela, Goddess of Death
    32. The Price of Cells
    33. The All-Seeing Eye
    34. The Faculty Responds
    35. The Secret of Immortality
    36. Heavenly Bodies
    37. The Fame She So Richly Deserves, and Epilogue.

    How many pages are in The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks?

    The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks has 370 pages.

    When was The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks published?

    The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks was published in 2010.

    What to read after The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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