Scloot The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks: Chapter 24-31 Summary

Chapter 24 describes the events of 1975. A young journalist Rogers decides to visit the Lacks family and interview them about their mother’s cells. It turns out that the family members know nothing about it. Rogers explains the basic issues to them and tells them that John Hopkins and George Gey made a fortune on the HeLa cells. Deborah is shocked by the research when she learns that her mother’s cells were crossed with plants (Skloot, 2011, p.138-142).

Chapter 25 describes the situation of John Moore, who suffers from leukemia. He signs the documents that allow his doctor to use his cells for research, but then he is shocked that in the documentation the doctor considers him to be a cell, not a human. It caused numerous lawsuits in 1980s about the ethical and legislative sides of using human biological material (Skloot, 2011, p. 143-148).

Chapter 26 describes 5 years from the life of Lacks family. Lawrence worked in business, Deborah married another man, Sonny was imprisoned for drug dealing and Zakariyya was released from detention. He had psychological problems with anger control, was homeless and finally became a subject for research at the center of Hopkins (Skloot, 2011, p.149-154).

Chapter 27 is about “the secret of immortality” of HeLa cells. From 1984 to 1995 much research was undertaken using the HeLa cells. The scientists discovered that this type of cancer was caused by Human Papilloma Virus, that was a newly discovered sexually transmitted virus (Skloot, 2011, p. 155-159).

Chapter 28 describes the events of 1996-1999, when the story of HeLa cells and Henrietta Lacks gained publicity. Her family is invited to participate in the TV shows about it and to visit medical conferences in the honor of their mother. Many people become interested in this theme and soon a museum is opened to honor the memory of Henrietta and her contribution to the medical progress (Skloot, 2011, p.160-169).

Chapter 29. In 2000 Rebecca Skloot decides to write a book about Henrietta Lacks and calls Deborah for the first time. Though, the first interview happens a year after this phone call. Deborah agrees only on the conditions that her mother’s name will be spelled correctly, not Helen Lane, and the story of her sister Elsie Lacks will be researched and published. Her sister died in the hospital in the unknown circumstances (Skloot, 2011, p. 170 -175).

In chapter 30 Rebecca decides to communicate with Zakarriya, even though she is afraid of him. He has a negative attitude to the HeLa theme, is alcoholic and has problems with anger control. He turns out to be an unlucky person, who is almost blind and deaf, and has serious psychological problems. His step-mother abused him constantly in the childhood and he is angry with the researchers who have sacrificed his mother for the sake of medical progress. Zakarriya is not interested in the fact that HeLa cells have helped many people live, because his mother died (Skloot, 2011, p. 175-182).

In the beginning of chapter 31 a stranger comes to Deborah and tells her not to believe white reporters, because they want to find Henrietta’s grave and take her bones for further research. Deborah believes the man first, but then understands that it is the racism. She claims that the case of her mother is not the result of the racism, and she does not aim at punishing the doctors who conducted the research. Deborah worries about the financial side of the book’s publication. She is afraid that Hopkins pays Rebecca for the story and the name of Henrietta will be used in the press one more time (Skloot, 2011, p.180-188).



Scloot, R. (2011). The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Broadway Books.

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