The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks


Rebecca Skloot

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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks: Deborah's Voice Summary & Analysis

Rebecca includes a transcript of Deborah’s voice, as Deborah explains that her mother’s name was Henrietta Lacks, and that her cells are still living today in the form of HeLa, which is “all over the world” in both “medical facilities” and “computers.” Deborah describes telling doctors about her connection to HeLa, and attributes her own medication to her mother’s legacy. While she doesn’t really understand how her mother helped with these advancements, she is proud that Henrietta is helping so many people. She is upset, however, that the Lackses are too poor to even afford doctors, despite their family’s contribution to science.
By incorporating Deborah’s voice into the book, Skloot makes clear how important Henrietta’s daughter is to the overall narrative. At the same time, she also illustrates how muddled Henrietta’s legacy has become in Deborah’s head, and how difficult it is for Deborah to understand what exactly has happened to her mother’s cells. The speech also brings up the issues of monetary compensation, which will become increasingly important as the book continues.