From the book: "Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells—taken without her knowledge—became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first 'immortal' human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years.
Yet Henrietta remains virtually unknown.
Henrietta's family didn't learn of her 'immortality' until more than twenty years after her death, when scientists investigating HeLa began using her husband and children in research without informed consent.
Even though Henrietta's cells launched a multimillion-dollar industry that sells human biological materials, the family never saw any of the profits, and for decades after her death, many of her descendants struggled in Baltimore, often going years without health insurance."
An excerpt from the book was published in the February 2010 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine and is online here.
After the article was published, many people asked how they could make donations to help the Lacks family. If you want to give money to Henrietta's immediate family, you can click here to donate using PayPal. (Direct donations to the Lacks family are not tax deductible, and certain larger donations may be subject to federal gift tax.)
You can also donate to The Henrietta Lacks Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by Rebecca Skloot that will, among other things, provide educational help to the descendants of Henrietta Lacks. Visit the Foundation's website for more information.
To send a message to the family, click here.