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Home 2011 Henrietta Lacks and Current Issues in Medical Ethics

Henrietta Lacks and Current Issues in Medical Ethics

Crown Lecture in Ethics (Duke): Skloot on Henrietta Lacks

  • Lecture
Where Fleishman Commons, Sanford Building, Duke University
Contact Name Mary Lindsley
Contact Phone 613-7312
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Science writer Rebecca Skloot gives the 2010 Crown Lecture in Ethics on the issues raised in her new book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

In 1951, Henrietta Lacks died of cervical cancer, but cells from her tissue biopsy, taken without her consent, still live. The cells, known as HeLa, are one of the most important tools in medical research, vital to the development of the polio vaccine, cancer research, in vitro fertilization and gene mapping. Yet, for 25 years, her family knew nothing about Henrietta’s immortality. HeLa cells launched a multimillion-dollar industry, selling human biological material, but Henrietta’s family never saw any of the profits and struggles to afford medical care.
Skloot became fascinated with Henrietta Lacks in high school, and spent ten years researching her story. She traveled from state-of-the-art research labs to the tobacco fields of Virginia where Henrietta, a descendant of slaves and the mother of five children, had lived. In her dealings with the Lacks family, especially Henrietta’s youngest daughter, Deborah, Skloot faced her own ethical issues as a journalist.

An award-winning science writer, Rebecca Skloot’s articles have appeared in The New York Times Magazine; O, The Oprah Magazine; Discover; and elsewhere. She is a contributing editor for Popular Science magazine and has also been a correspondent for NPR and PBS. A former vice president of the National Book Critics Circle, she is on the faculty at the University of Memphis, where she teaches creative nonfiction.

Fresh Air with Terry Gross interview with Rebecca Skloot New York Times review of the book--

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