Summary: Chapter 23

In 1973, Bobette learned about Henrietta’s cells from a friend who was a scientist. Upon learning he ordered Henrietta’s cells from a supplier, Bobette worried Hopkins would come after Henrietta’s children and grandchildren.

Meanwhile, researchers sorted through the HeLa contamination problem. Victor McKusick, a colleague of Jones, suggested using DNA samples from Henrietta’s family to map her DNA. He asked his post-doctoral fellow, Susan Hsu, to obtain blood samples from the Lacks family. Because Hsu spoke English as a second language, she had difficulty communicating why she needed blood samples to the Lacks family, who had little scientific literacy. Furthermore, Day had been brought up not to question doctors even for clarification. Day and the Lacks children believed Hsu was screening them for cancer. At the time, drawing blood for a genetic marker exam didn’t require a consent form.

Deborah worried that the blood test meant Hopkins doctors believed she would get the same cancer her mother did at thirty. After reading an article about the Tuskegee Syphilis experiments, she worried the doctors at Hopkins had injected her with her mother’s cancer. She asked Day about Henrietta’s illness, and panicked when Day told her that Henrietta hadn’t seemed sick until after she started treatment. When McKusick asked Deborah for another blood sample, she went to get more answers. McKusick told her about HeLa’s contributions to science, which only made Deborah worry her mother’s cells felt the experimentation done on them. He also gave her a medical textbook he had written and signed, which Deborah couldn’t understand. The textbook had a photo of Henrietta, but no one in the family knew how anyone had gotten ahold of it.

Susan Hsu later told Skloot that she didn’t realize the Lacks family didn’t understand what was happening.

Summary: Chapter 24

Michael Rogers, the Rolling Stone reporter from Chapter 9, found his way to Lawrence Lacks’ house in 1975 using the phone book. He later told Skloot it was clear to him that the family didn’t understand what happened to Henrietta’s cells.

At first Sonny and Lawrence weren’t upset about the cells, but when they read Roger’s article and realized people sold and profited from Henrietta’s cells, they were furious. They believed George Gey and Hopkins got rich from their mother’s cells. However, there’s no evidence Gey or Hopkins as an institution profited from HeLa cells. Biotech companies and various for-profit cell banks have made money from HeLa, and some nonprofit cell banks also sell the line.