By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Librarian
When Henrietta Lacks went to the doctor in 1951, she was diagnosed with cancer. The doctor took a sample of her cancer cells for medical research, along with several other patients, without telling them. Henrietta’s cells survived unlike all the other samples and were known as He-La cells. Her cells revolutionized medical research; thus becoming the immortal cells of Henrietta Lacks.
In the 1950’s medical science was just beginning to modernize. Scientists and researchers were trying to find a way to keep human cells alive for medical testing. The first part of the book explains how He-La cells revolutionized medical research, which Ms. Skloot explains for both those knowledgeable in science and the layman. The 2nd part tells a more personal story of how Henrietta Lacks’ family learned about the He-La cells and how they were affected by their fame and scientific value.
I learned about the history of medical research and the He-La cells. I was appalled by the cavalier attitude doctors and researchers had for patients at that time, especially those who had no money or choices in healthcare. Though this book is set in the 1950’s I believe it is relevant in today’s times and can help to better understand our current healthcare situation.