I couldn’t put this book down. I’m a bit of a science junkie, although a rather clueless one. But this was a fascinating exploration of the the evolution of cell cultures, the culture of African American healthcare treatment, the history of consent in medical testing, and the injustices of the modern healthcare system.
The author weaved in the part she played in the story–tracking down the human behind the “indestructible” HeLa cells, the scientists who had developed them, finding the descendents of Henrietta Lacks, and learning that they had benefited in no way from their mother’s legacy. The author’s part was a little distracting maybe. But I think it enhanced the humanity and the reality of the story, to see from a third party perspective the contrast between the glamor and renown of Henrietta Lacks’ cells, and the dismal poverty of Henrietta’s descendants.
Completely captivating story, and I love that the author has created a foundation for the descendants of people who were used for medical testing without their knowledge. This was unfortunately rather common in the 50s and 60s, notably with the experiments conducted at the Tuskeegee Institute, giving rise to modern medical privacy and protection laws.)
I finished this over the summer, just before the Supreme Court decision that the BCRA cancer cells–or, in fact, any cells, genes, or mutations that are created by nature–cannot be patented by any company or individual. Highly relevant, and highly recommended :)