The Book “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”

Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The book “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” is a dramatic story about the life of an ordinary woman, who presented her immortal cells to the world. It is also the story about fair and unfair doctors and the birth of bioethics. The HeLa cells helped to develop the vaccine from poliomyelitis, disclose the secrets of the cancer diseases, and make important steps in the artificial insemination, cloning and compilation of genetic cards.

The first chapter, called “The Exam”, gives the general idea of Henrietta Lacks and her gynecological problems, which made her visit the John Hopkins Hospital. The author provides a reader with the date of her first visit to the hospital. This information is rather contradictory. The correct date is assumed to be February 1, 1951. The ambiguity with this date arose owing to the mistake made by her attending physician when copying the information on February 5. Except this detail, the first chapter presents another important fact about the way a doctor examined her in the hospital, which was one of the best in the district. Being built as a hospital for the poor, it was full of Afro-Americans, who could not afford to pay for their medical service.

The chapter 2, “Clover”, covers the background information about the main character of the novel. Namely, it gives a detailed data on the place of her birth as well as her parents: a mother, who died giving birth to her tenth child, and a father, who did not have enough patience to grow ten children up and brought them to Clover. Moreover, the writer describes the place and the way of life in Clover and the years of childhood and youth of Henrietta. Later, the novel describes the marriage of a young beautiful girl with a nice smile and hazel eyes. Skloot tries to reconstruct the atmosphere of the epoch and the places where Henrietta lived and grew up.

The next, third, chapter “Diagnosis and Treatment” speaks of the cervical cancer, the studies of the invasive carcinoma and the common information on the disease. It also shows its awful influence on the organism of a woman. The author of the novel tries to help the reader to penetrate into the atmosphere of the clinical investigation of cancer and to show that Henrietta visited a doctor for special procedures at the John Hopkins Hospital for a lot of times.

The chapter 4, “The Birth of HeLa” describes the process of the emergence of the HeLa cells. They were taken from Henrietta after a number of hygienic preparations. Rebecca Skloot showed the whole range of the medical procedures, accompanying the receipt of the patters from the cervical tissue of Lacks. There is also information about the invention of a special cylinder used for the laboratory purposes. The Henrietta’s cells successfully grew.

The fifth chapter “Blackness Be Spreadin All Inside” tells the readers about the way Henrietta spent time with her husband and children. The author of the novel emphasizes with which caution a woman informed her relatives, sisters and cousins about her health problems. In this chapter, Henrietta gets to know that she will not be able to become pregnant anymore. Usually, the procedure of informing patients about such news was the standard one in the John Hopkins Hospital.

The sixth chapter “Lady’s on the Phone” retells the telephone conversation of the author of the novel and Roland Patillo, who organized the First Annual Women’s Health Conference, devoted to the HeLa cells. Mr. Patillo provided Rebecca with the telephone number of Henrietta’s daughter, after the conversation with whom she was inspired by the possibility to use the reliable information from the Lack’s family for her book. However, the family members of Henrietta neither wanted to discuss this topic with anybody else nor gave any information about the life and death of Henrietta.

The seventh chapter “The Death and Life of Cell Culture” speaks for itself. The discovery of the Henrietta’s cells became the breakthrough in the scientific research of the time. Her cells gave the way to the number of experiments in the laboratories in different countries of the world. They traveled to America and India, to Amsterdam and Chile. They were treated with different toxins, radiated and infected with various diseases. However, Skloot emphasizes that after the story with the failure of the chickens’ heart cells and the growth of the HeLa cells in the laboratory, the image of the immortal cells started to be poorly supported by the public.

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