I really liked this book. It's an interesting, frightening, saddening story of medical morals run amuck. I'm late to the blogging party with this one, and you probably know the backstory: Henrietta Lacks was an African-American woman who had a horrible case of cervical cancer, from which doctors and researchers withdrew cell tissue for research without informing her or getting her consent. This was pretty standard at the time, but what wasn't standard was the fact the Lacks's cells continue to replicate to this day, something incredibly unique and something which has led to medical discoveries and cures of all kinds.
However, Lacks and her family didn't know about this for many years, and author Skloot spends time showing what their lives are like: poor, mostly, and without health insurance to pay for some of the advances their mother's cells have provided. It's a stark contrast and raises provocative questions about what the medical community has rights to and what patients have rights to.
It's also reflective of race relations in the 1950s, when other horrendous medical treatments were going on in the name of science, far more harmful than what Lacks went through. But Lacks's daughter, Elsie, faced her own form of racist medical treatment to horrific ends after Henrietta's death, a side story in this book that, to me, deserves its own book.
It's a worthwhile read, if hard to continue at places just because of things like Elsie's story. Skloot is a good writer, making scientific topics understandable to this layperson, and delving deeply into the Lacks family members lives and making them very real and very poignant, especially Deborah, who spends most of her adult life on a crusade to get people to understand that HeLa wasn't just a group of cells, but a mother, a daughter, an aunt.
Pretty impressive for a debut book.