Tuesday, February 1st, 2011...9:25 am
Black History Month: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Henrietta Lacks has been called the most important person in medicine…though she was never a doctor.
Henrietta Lacks helped to develop the cure for polio….though she never did any research.
Henrietta Lacks lives today…though she died in 1951.
Henrietta Lacks went to Johns Hopkins Hospital seeking treatment for cervical cancer in 1950. Henrietta died, but during her stay a sample of her tumor was collected. These cells were taken without her or her family’s knowledge or permission, which was standard practice at the time.
In the lab, her cells were reproduced and used in research. The cells were remarkable because they never died. Her cells, called the HeLa Line, have been used to develop vaccines, to study the effects of radiation, and to invent used in 11,000 registered patents.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks tells her story, her family’s story, and her cells’ story. Tragically, the Lacks family (she had five children) had no knowledge of their mother’s donation to science. Her family had no money for a headstone for Henrietta’s grave, though the sale of her cells have generated millions of dollars for other people. Her family cannot afford health insurance, though their mother is celebrated for her contributions to medicine.
Read more about Henrietta Lacks:
- The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks from the JTCC Library.
- Cancer cells killed Henrietta Lacks – then made her immortal in the Virginian-Pilot
- Henrietta’s Tumor on Radiolab
Oprah Winfrey and Alan Ball (True Blood, Six Feet Under) are developing a HBO movie about Henrietta Lacks.
Her story was long untold–learn and preserve the legacy.