The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Rebecca Skloot discusses the life and legacy of Henrietta Lacks, a poor Southern tobacco farmer whose cells—taken without her knowledge—became one of the most important tools in medicine. Her book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks tells the story of the Lacks family, the dark history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over whether we control the what we are made of.


Rebecca Skloot

Comments [5]

noname from Queens, NY

Interesting story but a couple of details:
Ms. Skloot referred in the beginning of the interview as cells in culture being something like 'a human being in a dish'. That's a pretty far-fetched comment. It along the same lines as a main problem in medicine: to much specialization forgetting that the human body functions as a collection of systems. Yes, we learn a tremendous amount about certain biochemical processes from cultured cells that grow under controlled condition with artificial nutrients but it's far from what happens in the body as a whole.
When discussing how HeLa cells have changed over the years, she said 'cells in one guy's lab behave differently than...'. Was this a freudian slip that all/most lab scientist's are men?

Mar. 18 2010 01:04 PM
Karen from Harlem

Ms. Skloot,

I loved this book. I am black, from Baltimore, with an aunt who died of cervical cancer, so this story resonated in many, many ways. I really appreciated that you wrote and seem to behave in a way that tries to stop the cycle of exploitation of Ms. Lacks' family.

Jason, not to be snarky, but if you own the book, why don't you look at her acknowledgements and notes?

Mar. 18 2010 12:53 PM
Jason from New Brunswick, NJ


I am a student of the history of science and medicine, with a particular interest in bioethics. I own your book but I have not read it. I just wanted know what primary (archival) sources you used? Did you visit specific archives?

Thanks so much!


Mar. 18 2010 12:45 PM
sophia from Yonkers

I heard another interview which mentioned that a researcher had discussed the use of her cells for research with Henrietta. Is the guest aware of this claim?

Mar. 18 2010 12:43 PM
Amy from nj

Rebecca, I am about half way through the book - love it!

Mar. 18 2010 12:38 PM

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