Wednesday 6 June 2012
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - Rebecca Skloot
One of those rare books where the author was able to bring together both the science and the family story. The book flashes between the past where Henrietta's story is told from the very beginning to the present day, where Skloot tries to convince the Lacks family that she is only after the real story. As a result you end up with the best of both worlds. It was cleverly done.
Clever in other ways too. The author shows just how much those cells have helped with medical breakthroughs. The big one is the one I already mentions, the Polio vaccination. They also continue to be used and it is hoped still that they will give an insight into cancer. So on that side I found myself intrigued and amazed that this small group of cells could do so much. On the other hand you are made to see what the family went through and you have to wonder was it worth it to them. They certainly didn't benefit. Instead their life has been make more difficult and it's almost as if their mother and wife was taken away from them. At no point did anyone sit down and explain exactly what it meant.
The author pushed it further by talking about the ethics of it. The cells were taken against the wishes of Henrietta and her family. It brought about the fear of being taken away and experimented on which wasn't as far fetched as you would think. It certainly opened my eyes.
A fantastic read, full of information with a human side. It was easier to read than most non-fiction as it was almost told as though it was a story. I would definitely recommend it.