The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks was written by Rebecca Skloot. It describes the story of Henrietta Lacks, an African American woman whose cancerous cells, now known as HeLa cells, contributed to scientific advances and saved the lives of countless people.It also describes the experiences that Skloot had while writing the book, tells of the struggles the Lacks family endured because of the HeLa cells, and describes the history of the HeLa cells and how they became famous. The book emphasizes the life of Henrietta so readers will acknowledge the woman behind the cells. It also emphasizes the death of Henrietta, caused by the same cancerous cells that have saved millions of lives, showing the cells initial grimness. In addition, the book provides histories of some of the doctors and scientists that worked with the HeLa cells and openly states that HeLa cells were taken out of Henrietta Lacks' body without her consent and against the desires of her family members. This causes the reader to contemplate the ethical problems surrounding HeLa cells and helps them grasp the complexity of the issue.
The book conveys several aspects of humanity. One aspect is humanity's sinful nature. The book explains instances where humans mistreated and used other humans for the sake of progress and discovery. One example of this is when the doctors treating Henrietta took cells from her body and experimented on them without her permission and without the consent of her family members (after she died). An additional example is when a scientist named Chester Southam injected healthy people with cancerous cells to see if the HeLa cells could infect people with cancer. Another aspect of humanity that the book conveys is the limit of human reasoning when it isn't supported by facts and its influence on how people comprehend reality. An example of this is when Deborah, Henrietta's daughter, tries to understand what HeLa cells are and thinks that her mother's spirit is present within them. Her reasoning is sound, but limited because it isn't supported by empirical information. Without this information, Deborah cannot come to the correct conclusion regardless of how hard she tries to understand the HeLa cells. Thus, she concludes that since the cells were part of her mother, her mother's spirit is still connected to the cells and lives in them. Deborah believes that her mother is acting within the cells and controls some of the things that happen in the natural world. Another example is how Gary, Deborah's cousin, uses scripture to explain how Henrietta's spirit is present in HeLa cells. Gary takes information from the Bible out of context, changing the text's initial meaning, and reasons that the Bible is saying that Henrietta's spirit is in the cells when it isn't. Gary's reasoning is sound, but the information supporting his reasoning isn't accurate because it was taken out of context and given an alternative meaning. The inevitable result is an inaccurate conclusion.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks challenged the way I thought of being Christian in an interconnected world. It made me think of the relationship between science and scripture, especially regarding death. Christians believe that they are born dead because of sin and are made alive again because of Jesus sacrifice, which allows Christians to have an intimate relationship with God. Scientists believe that death occurs when people's bodies and minds cease to function. This made me wonder what death is and how many types of death exist. Also, I contemplated whether people's souls are innately immortal. Do people fade out of existence for a period of time when they die and then come back into existence when they are resurrected, or are their souls immortal and get separated from their body and get reunited with bodies during Judgment Day? I have concluded that I cannot be certain of how many types of deaths there are what the immediate result of physical death is.