TV: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks


Rose Byrne as Rebecca Skloot and Oprah Winfrey as Deborah Lacks

To be honest I did not know anything about Henrietta Lacks and the ‘HeLa’ cell line so important to medical research. And I thought I was reasonably well read. With this Oprah Winfrey film I think I’ve stumbled on to a really interesting story. It’s complicated in terms of the medical science stuff but the real focus is on consent of patients and personal privacy. That Henrietta’s cell line is remarkable is an understatement. I don’t understand why John Hopkins Hospital needed to be so secretive about what they were doing. But we are talking about the 1950s. Fast forward to recent times and Author Rebecca Skloot’s book. [Which I need to track down and read]. And the film adaptation I just watched. Deborah Lacks and her wider family were let down by the establishment and to be honest, seemed quite dazed and confused. [I would be too]. Skloot was able to fill in the gaps for them and bring them a sense of healing and closure. We learn about Henrietta herself and what the children went through. And the emotional scars still carried today. The film is excellent and Oprah is always really good in her on screen portrayals – which are from the heart. I highly recommend this made for TV movie. Track it down people – I hope you find it as fascinating as I did.


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