The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Questions and Answers
by Rebecca Skloot

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What is the central thesis of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks?  From the persausive argument found in the book, by the author.

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The central thesis of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is that the American medical industry often exploits and mistreats people who lack education and economic power. This disproportionately affects women and minorities.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a nonfiction book by American science writer Rebecca Skloot (born September 19, 1972). It was published in 2010 to acclaim and remained on the The New York Times Bestseller list for six years. Generically, it is an example of a nonfiction work in which the author's journey to investigate the story is as essential as the putative subject. This is as much of a book about the education of Skloot herself as about the exploitation of Henrietta Lacks. One could argue that a well-developed secondary thesis of the book is that journalists need to develop cultural sensitivity in their interactions with their subjects, understanding not just raw facts but the emotional and cultural circumstances underlying and surrounding the events at hand.

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iif1 | Student

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks weaves the story of a poor, Southern, African-American family into a dilemma of utilitarianism, posing the question: does the end justify the means?

Henrietta Lacks died of complications from advanced cervical cancer on October 4, 1951. She was a mother, a wife, and a poor African-American woman receiving medical treatment in the segregated wards of Johns Hopkins Hospital. During treatment, some of her tumor cells were removed as part of a standard biopsy. These cells, researchers soon discovered, had interesting properties. They never died.

The "immortal" properties of Henrietta's cells captivated researchers. After Henrietta Lacks died, Johns Hopkins kept her tumor cells, reproduced them under the label "HeLa" and, ultimately, shared them with other researchers. These HeLa cells have been used in medical research for nearly seventy years and, some argue, have helped revolutionize the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries.

While HeLa cells have undoubtedly helped develop life-saving therapies for patients, they have also generated enormous profits for corporations. In The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, the profits gained by the patients and corporations are starkly contrasted with the emotional and financial losses experienced by the Lacks' family after the death of their matriarch, Henrietta. Skloot deeply explores these losses in her text, emphasizing the human aspect of the HeLa story.

The Lacks family were not told that their mother's tissues were kept, renamed and reproduced for use in global research. They were never given the option to consent and, depending on who you ask, neither did Henrietta. However, does the end justify the means? Skloot leaves that decision with the reader.

hunt8storm | Student

I agree with the answer above completely! However I was just recently asked what is the central ARGUMENT in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks? Thoughts @amarang9?