How did Deborah die in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks?
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Deborah died of her sleep in 2009. She was 60 years old.
Deborah Lacks never appreciated the injustice her family suffered as a result of doctors at John Hopkins taking her cells. In her diary, Deborah writes about the irony of her mother’s unknowing contribution to medical science.
But I’ve always thought it was strange, if our mother cells done so much for medicine, how come her family can’t afford to see no doctors? Don’t make no sense. (“Deborah’s Voice,” p. 9)
More than any member of Henrietta’s family, Deborah was angered by the injustice. At the end of this journal entry she says that she is tired of fighting, but just wants to know who her mother was. Skloot interviewed Deborah for a whole year, but it took a long time to gain her trust.
Deborah had a difficult life. She told Skloot she did not want to get rich, but she wished she had health insurance to pay for the drugs she took that her mother’s cells probably helped make.
Skloot was not aware that Deborah had died, though she knew her health was always questionable. She found out she died in her sleep. Her brother said she died happy. Her grandchildren were doing well. The book was going to be published, and her mother and family would get the recognition they deserved and the children would get some financial support.
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