The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks | Study Guide

Rebecca Skloot

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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks | Part 3, Chapter 34 : The Medical Records (2001) | Summary



Deborah comes back minutes later to Skloot's room at the hotel to look through the medical records with her. She is manic, talking constantly about Elsie and wanting to protect her, and insisting Skloot take notes instead of taking copies of the records. She keeps pulling away papers from Skloot, and finally ends up slamming Skloot against a wall, demanding to know who she is working for, because Skloot smiled at a word she promised not to include in the book. Skloot fights her off and tells her to calm down, and Deborah smiles and says she thought Skloot didn't have it in her to be mad. She tells Skloot about the Cofield incident and says, "He was trying to take one of the only things I really got from my mother." Deborah wants the family to have all the records, and not give everything away to reporters. By the time the night is over, Skloot is exhausted and Deborah has broken out in hives. She says, however, "We're okay, Boo." Skloot is not sure this is true.


The trust level between Deborah and Skloot is shaky, and becomes damaged on Skloot's side when Deborah physically attacks her, accusing her of working for someone else for money. Skloot defends herself, though, and Deborah notes she has never seen Skloot mad. Skloot's self-control is a testament to her journalistic ethics; she is always cognizant of the story's human elements and the Lacks family's emotions.

Skloot is shaken by the incident, but she understands why Deborah feels under assault every time she must show the records to anyone. She's not sure Deborah will ever trust her completely, because of Deborah's past experiences with people like Cofield. But the shaky trust Skloot has earned so far will have to hold if Skloot and Deborah are to travel to Clover.

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