Rebecca Skloot 's The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks

999 Words Sep 5th, 2014 4 Pages
Millennia old problems such as poverty, medical abuse, and ignorance pass through successive generations and will often never change. In Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, the structure plays a crucial role in showing how such obstacles in the Lacks family live as eternally as the famous HeLa cells. Skloot uses her structure to entwine three separate storylines, all set in very different time periods, into a coherent narrative that demonstrates the real immortality of Henrietta Lacks and all that she left behind.
Henrietta faces challenges in the hands of medicine that, as emphasized by the novel’s structure, still exist today. When she visits John Hopkins Hospital to investigate a mysterious cervical tumor, her physician secretly takes a cancerous tissue sample that soon bears the immortal HeLa cell line. Henrietta’s doctors often work both in their own and in their patients’ interests. The Hopkins physicians at the time, like George Gey, a distinguished biologist trying to develop the first cell line to live and multiply in a lab, and Richard TeLinde, a leading gynecology expert, would often use the public ward patients for research, “usually without their knowledge.” Today society deems this practice unacceptable; physicians now need patient consent to collect tissue for research. Many people still debate medical abuse and tissue ownership rights, showing that the eternal issue continued through the last century. By using the structure to…
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