The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot

Her cells have been cloned, and they defeated polio. [Image shows cell division] They were sent in a rocket to test the reaction of human cells to space flight. [Image shows an oversized cell in the window of a rocket] If all the cells that had ever been grown from her cell line were gathered together, they would weigh more than the Empire State Building. [Image shows a mass of cells on one side of a scale, outweighing the Empire State Building on the other side.] And she never even knew they were taken from her. Henrietta Lacks was an impoverished wife and mother when she developed cervical cancer at 30, in 1951—a cancer that would outlive her and have an eternal effect on medicine and science, and on her children and grandchildren. [Image shows a black and white drawing of a woman]

Good for: Everybody (old enough to be interested). This book is excellent in so many ways: it draws you into its human story; it teaches you about science, biology, and medicine in easy language and with very little prior knowledge required; and it raises important, still-relevant ethical questions about medical scientific research and patent ownership.

Reading this book, I was totally amazed at what medical researchers used to get away with. Every 10 pages someone was doing something like in this xkcd comic, except they didn't have to get patient permission first!


Add a comment