Why did the author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks break the book into three sections--"Life," "Death, and "Immortality"?

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poetrymfa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Rebecca Skloot, the author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, split the book into three distinct sections--"Life," "Death," and "Immortality"--in order to describe the events of Henrietta's life (and the continued life of her cells) in a logical manner.

Thus, the "Life" sections deals with Henrietta's childhood, as she was raised by her grandfather on a farm which had once belonged to a slave owner.

The "Death" section naturally deals with Henrietta's death from cervical cancer and the removal of cells--without consent--from henrietta's cervix during a radiation treatment.

The "Immortality" section deals with the use of Henrietta's cells (which were the first human cells grown in a culture outside of the body) in over 60,000 scientific studies across the world. This section also addresses the immense ethical and financial issues that arose out of the use of these cells, which were removed and replicated without permission from Henrietta or her family.

Interspersed into the narrative is the story of how dramatically this theft of genetic material impacted her family, who received no compensation for these actions (in spite of the immense profits that the cells yielded through medical experimentation) and suffered emotionally upon learning of this violation. 

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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

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