HeLa Cells

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is the story behind the HeLa cell line, an immortal line of cells that is responsible for some of the most important innovations in modern science, from the vaccine for polio to discoveries in cancer and AIDS.  The HELA cells were taken from an African American mother of five in Baltimore without her consent. She later died from a very aggressive cancer.  Despite the importance of Ms. Lacks’ cells, her family continued to live in poverty and ill health, knowing nothing of her great contributions. Rebecca Skloot spent ten years and great personal expense investigating this story and her book raises questions about ownership of one’s cells and the ethics of medicine in the context of race, class, and education.

 

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