The main characters in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot didn't have access to good education especially in the sciences. What are some examples of this?

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the great ironies of the book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot is that while the cells of Henrietta Lacks helped scientists make major medical discoveries, Henrietta herself and her family lacked access to good scientific education, and did not really benefit from any of the discoveries to which the cells contributed. 

The first evidence we see is in Henrietta's initial reaction to her symptoms. A more educated woman would have realized earlier that she needed medical attention. Her reluctance to get treatment and the number of untreated other problems she had also were a sign that she did not understand the medical world nor the importance of regular medical tests and treatments. In Chapter 8 we see that Henrietta really did not understand the concept of palliative treatment.

In Chapter 10, Cootie thinks that Henrietta's cells remaining alive after her death must be caused by voodoo, because he does not understand how cells can survive outside the body. 

In Chapter 21, we see the family's views about science and medicine clearly. First, there is a great suspicion about what happens in hospitals, including the notion that people who go there may be kidnapped. They also don't appear to understand the purpose of autopsies or the notion of indirect benefits of medical knowledge.

In Chapter 23, Deborah, combining knowledge of the Tuskegee syphilis experiments with ignorance of the difference between cancers and infectious diseases, wonders if her mother could have been infected with cancer deliberately. We also find out that she does not know what a cell is. Thus in Chapter 24, Deborah wonders if her mother is experiencing pain from the experiments with HeLa cells.

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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

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