Workbook on The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot: Summary Study Guide
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In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, a 31-year-old African-American, went to Johns Hopkins Hospital for a diagnosis. There, she found out she has cervical cancer, a terminal illness less likely to be cured back in the day. Since performing surgeries to cure cancer was done poorly at the time, aggressive radiotherapy, the main treatment if the disease is detected in the early stages, would often result in severe damage to the body. When she didn't make it and finally passed away on October 4th that same year, Dr. George Gey, who has been conducting his research on a line of human cells that could survive outside the body, cultured cells from her cervix without her knowledge. There, he found that Lacks' cells did not just survive but also multiplied rapidly and reproduced an entire generation of cells within a day. Lacks’ tissues, where her cells were cultured, became a money-spinner, producing millions of dollars for the medical researchers who patented the results of their studies.
Rebecca Skloot is an American science journalist who wrote The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks as her debut book. It includes not only the young woman's contribution to science but also its effects on the loved ones she left behind, including her husband and five children. For decades, as Lacks's cells continued to be reproduced and be used for commercial purposes, nobody in the scientific field dared to inform Lacks' family of her great contribution to the history of science.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks instantly became one of the best-selling new books of 2010, earning the #1 title and staying on The New York Times Bestseller List for six years. It eventually had its movie adaptation starring Rose Byrne as Skloot and Oprah Winfrey as Deborah, one of Lacks' children. It was directed by George C. Wolfe and premiered on April 22, 2017, on HBO. Skloot also appeared in several TV shows. The book had 25 translations and won numerous awards as it was acclaimed in several newspapers, magazines, and different media outlets. The Washington Post named her one of the Five Surprising Leaders of 2010.
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