Summer Reading List: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Looking for a pro bono-themed read for your vacation this weekend?  Pack The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot in your beach bag.  This best-selling novel tells the story of an impoverished black woman whose cancer cells were used to aid in lucrative medical discoveries after she died in 1950.  Meanwhile Lacks’ surviving relatives were left poor, and unable to afford health insurance.

Jonathan Chou, an associate and former molecular biologist, and partner, Ethan Skerry, both from Lowenstein Sandler PC*, set up the Henrietta Lacks Foundation and secured tax-exempt status for the author, Rebecca Skloot, in 2010.

The foundation aims to provide financial assistance to needy individuals who have contributed to scientific research without personally benefiting, particularly in the absence of informed consent.   And, as a result of the foundation’s success, some of Lacks’ family have received grants for health expenses and education.  Other potential recipients are the subjects of the Tuskegee Institute study from the 1930s-1970s, which left black men untreated for syphilis without their knowledge or consent, and Guatemalan men infected with syphilis in a U.S. government experiment in the 1940s.

Click here to learn more about Lowenstein’s efforts and other pro bono victories from New Jersey law firms.

Do you have any other pro bono-related summer reading recommendations?  Leave us a comment and let us know.

*denotes a Signatory to the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® and a Law Firm Pro Bono Project Member.