S4L Book Club – The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Hi Everyone, I hope you enjoyed this book as much as I did. It really opened my eyes to science, ethics, and ramifications of academic ignorance. I know the book is controversial, and am hoping we can all gain insight from each other without getting angry 🙂 I’m planning to use questions from a study guide for Tuesday and Thursday postings then do more personalized group questions on Saturdays. Here goes…

Henrietta is examined at the gynecology clinic at Johns Hopkins Hospital by Dr. Howard Jones, and her brief medical history is reviewed. The medical history gives the reader an understanding of her background and sophistication.

  1. How would you describe Henrietta’s experiences and attitudes toward medical care prior to her cancer diagnosis?
  2. Why did Henrietta go to Johns Hopkins rather than another hospital?

Categories: Reading

1 reply »

  1. Henrietta didn’t pursue medical care until pain forced her to. Even then, she didn’t share information about her condition with anyone–not even her husband and kids–unless she absolutely had to. When she did have to, she drastically understated her condition and needs.

    I can relate to that approach. It is my own. Mine stems from a fear of illness, a burying-my-head-in-the-sand approach, and that may also have been true for Henrietta. We can’t know.

    Another contributing factor, though, was that medical care wasn’t readily available: many hospitals wouldn’t treat black people, and she couldn’t afford to pay for it. I can also relate to the second part of this. Medical care continues to be very expensive.

    Johns Hopkins offered free medical care and treated minorities. That’s why Henrietta went there. There had to be a stigma associated with going there, and that couldn’t have felt good. It’s bad enough that one feels ill or has pain, to make getting medical care difficult and painful–making one feel badly while seeking care–seems cruel to me, adding insult to injury.