The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks | Study Guide

Rebecca Skloot

Download a PDF to print or study offline.

Study Guide
Cite This Study Guide

How to Cite This Study Guide

quotation mark graphic


Course Hero. "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Study Guide." Course Hero. 11 Aug. 2017. Web. 16 Dec. 2018. <>.

In text

(Course Hero)



Course Hero. (2017, August 11). The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved December 16, 2018, from

In text

(Course Hero, 2017)



Course Hero. "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Study Guide." August 11, 2017. Accessed December 16, 2018.


Course Hero, "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Study Guide," August 11, 2017, accessed December 16, 2018,

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks | Part 3, Chapter 31 : Hela, Goddess of Death (2000–2001) | Summary



Skloot promises Deborah she will set up a foundation to give scholarships to the descendants of Henrietta Lacks, if the book gets published. Deborah begins to trust Skloot more as they do research together. Skloot helps her learn to use a computer and go on the Internet, but Deborah ends up scaring herself with cloning articles, taking Ambien to help her sleep and then going on Google. Deborah is on several medications, but the sleep aid is problematic, and her grandson Devon decides he needs to stay with her as long as she is taking it. Skloot sends Deborah information as soon as she gets it, having promised never to hide anything from her. Deborah begins to do more informative research for herself and keeps files to show Skloot. She gets angry about one article claiming Henrietta got HPV from "sleeping around."

The president of the National Foundation for Cancer Research gets in touch with Deborah to ask her to come to their conference in 2001, held in Henrietta's honor. Deborah is thrilled about this but wants to see her mother's cells first, asking to go see Christoph Lengauer. Then Deborah calls Skloot, saying her son Alfred has been arrested for armed robbery. She still wants to go see the cells, though.


Skloot's ethical treatment of Deborah and the Lacks family includes a promise to help them financially if her book sells. Since she is an independent journalist, no one is paying for her to write the book, but she wants to help if she can, which helps Deborah trust her more. She also promises never to keep anything from Deborah, and follows through on her promise, which makes Deborah begin to open up to her about her medications, her health problems, and about having to go on Social Security. She also expresses her fears about cloning and all the other things the HeLa cells are used for—things she doesn't quite understand yet. Skloot patiently explains every piece of information to Deborah.

The article claiming Henrietta had HPV because she was "loose" infuriates Deborah, who has done her research on HPV and has learned many people have it. Deborah doesn't know about her father's relationship with her mother, but she does have her medical records, so she knows her mother was treated for sexually transmitted diseases. She also knows her father's personality, so it isn't unreasonable for her to defend her mother. It is also true that a high percentage of people carry one or more types of HPV. It is sexist, racist, and classist for the author of the article to blame Henrietta for contracting the disease.

Cite This Study Guide

information icon Have study documents to share about The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks? Upload them to earn free Course Hero access!