NMU Reader Program Explores Bioethics

Monday 11, 2013


            MARQUETTE, Mich.—Northern Michigan University will host a Diversity Common Reader Program built around “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot. The book is about a poor Southern tobacco farmer and descendant of slaves whose cells were taken by doctors without her knowledge. Those cells, which remain alive more than 60 years after Lacks’ death, launched a medical revolution and a multimillion-dollar industry that sells human biological materials. Her family never saw any profits and did not learn of Lacks’ “immortality” until long after she passed away.

            A keynote event on Monday, April 15, will feature David “Sonny” Lacks, Henrietta’s son, and Veronica Spencer, her great-granddaughter. They will share their perspective on how the family was forever impacted by the collision of ethics, race and the commercialization of human tissue. The family members will be joined by Dr. Ruth Faden, executive director of Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics. Their presentation begins at 7 p.m. in Jamrich Hall 102. It is free and open to the public, as are all program-related events.

            Four book discussions on various themes, facilitated by NMU professors, are also planned. They will be held in the Learning Resources Center room 311, unless otherwise indicated. Topics, facilitators and dates are: race and gender with Amy Hamilton and Lesley Larkin, at 2 p.m. Monday, April 8; ethics and human research with Derek Anderson and Zac Cogley at noon on Wednesday, April 10, in the LRC room 109; writing and research with Jessica Bell and Matt Bell at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 11; and law and race with Jonathan Allen and Steve Nelson at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 16.

            Tours of NMU biology labs led by John Rebers, NMU biology professor, will showcase several types of cultured cells and demonstrate how they are stored and how contamination is avoided. They are scheduled at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Thursday, April 11 in the New Science Facility, room 2307. Sign up for a tour at http://tinyurl.com/an693cs.

            Copies of the book are available for purchase at the NMU Bookstore, among other outlets. For more details on the book and author, visit www.rebeccaskloot.com. This inaugural NMU Diversity Common Reader Program is presented by the President’s Committee on Diversity. It is also sponsored by the NMU College of Arts and Sciences, School of Education, the Multicultural Education and Resource Center, the Center for Native American Studies, the departments of biology, chemistry and English, and the offices of the president, provost, and graduate education and research.

            For more information on the reader program, contact Lesley Larkin at llarkin@nmu.edu or 227-1794.


Kristi Evans
News Director

David "Sonny" Lacks