Summary: Chapter 3

The results of Henrietta’s biopsy showed she had cervical cancer.

Jones’s boss, gynecologist Richard TeLinde, was researching cervical cancer. As was common practice at the time, he conducted experiments on patients from the public wards, often without their knowledge. At Hopkins, many public ward patients were black. Doctors saw this practice as fair because the public ward patients couldn’t pay in full. At the time of Henrietta’s biopsy, TeLinde wanted to compare healthy cervical tissue with the two types of cervical cancer in order to prove that the cervical cancers were the same.

TeLinde worked with George Gey, the head of tissue culture at Hopkins, who, with his wife Margaret, was attempting to grow a line of “immortal” human cells. “Immortal” in this case means a cell line that continues to divide indefinitely, replenishing itself.

When Henrietta learned that her growth was cancer, she decided not to tell anyone in order not to upset her family. She told Day she needed to return to Hopkins for medicine.

Before treatment, Henrietta signed a form consenting to any operation under anesthetic that her doctors deemed necessary. The next day, she underwent radium treatment, which involved sewing tubes of radium into her cervix. While Henrietta was under anesthesia, the surgeon took samples of both healthy cervical tissue and tissue from her tumor in order to give them to George Gey. No one told Henrietta about the tissue samples.

Summary: Chapter 4

Gey’s assistant, Mary Kubicek, prepared the cell cultures and labeled them HeLa for “Henrietta Lacks.”