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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

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#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLERHer name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells—taken without her knowledge in 1951—became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, and more. Henrietta’s cells have been bought and sold by the billions, yet she remains virtually unknown, and her family can’t afford health insurance. This phenomenal New York Times bestseller tells a rivet…

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TIL of Henrietta Lacks, the “woman who will never die” because her cells never stopped reproducing(r/todayilearned)

The story of Henrietta Lacks is super interesting, but also really sad. Her cells were harvested at a blacks only hospital without her consent or notification. Later, the doc who harvested them went on to make buckets of money selling the cell line to researchers all over the place. People still make buckets of money off that line, and her family never saw, and will never see, a dime of it.

It wasn’t all bad, though, as her cell line also helped to produce standards for cell culturing/storage/growth/an entire industry that all began with her cell line. It literally started a new era of research.

If you ever get a chance to read Skloot’s book give it a read. Very eye-opening for me in terms of patient rights and medical ethics at the time.

EDIT: As /u/Halsfield pointed out, there actually has been a legal development in the situation. Two of her surviving family members now sit on a committee that controls scientific access to the DNA, as well as recognition in published papers using this line. There’s no reported financial compensation, but apparently the family wasn’t all that interested in cashing in. In fact, it sounds like it’s opened up a ton of lucrative speaking engagements for her remaining family. I’m glad to see a happy ending, hats off to Rebecca Skloot. Without her, Henrietta would be nothing more than a footnote in history.

EDIT2: I am not as good with details as I’d hoped. Hopkins, where she was admitted, had a black wing and a white wing, and the Dr. who collected the sample did not make buckets of cash. It did spring a healthy business producing/shipping the cells to other researchers, but buckets of money might not be the best description. For clarity’s sake I’m leaving my original comment as is.

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todayilearned

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1

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672

Amazon Price

$6.0

NSFW Product

SFW

Book Binding

Paperback

Type Code

ABIS_BOOK

Book Author

Rebecca Skloot

Book Publisher

Broadway Books

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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

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TIL of Henrietta Lacks, the “woman who will never die” because her cells never stopped reproducing

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