Full Disclaimer: I am about 2 months behind on my reviews. My plan is to review a book a day until I get caught up, but I am fuzzy on some details on the last 8 books I have read. Poopnuggets!
I first heard about Henrietta Lacks and on an episode of Radiolab called "Famous Tumors". I love, love, love, Radiolab, and I was fascinated by the story, so when I saw the book at an airport bookstore, I knew I had to read it. Henrietta Lacks was a poor, black woman in the 1940s. She went to the "colored ward" at John's Hopkins to receive treatment for cervical cancer. The tumor was removed, and some of the cancerous cells were scraped and preserved, which was routine for the time. The patient gave no consent, nor was it asked. The cancerous cells were then grown in a lab, and they became the first cells that could live independently of a human body.
30 or so years later, Henrietta's cells are the most used cells in cell research, and their name has been shortened to HELA. Henrietta's children don't discover this fact for decades, and when they do, they are very confused. They have little education and at first they think that Henrietta is still kept alive in a lab somewhere. This story is about how her children come to terms that John's Hopkins "stole" their mother's cells that that corporations are now profiting from them.
I loved this book! I have been recommending this book to everyone I can. Even though this is a non-fiction novel, it is very engrossing. It reads like a detective novel, treatise on civil rights, a discussion on patient's rights and doctor/patient confidentiality, and a beginner's genetics textbook. I couldn't put it down.