Study Guide

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks What's Up With the Epigraph?

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What's Up With the Epigraph?

We must not see any person as an abstraction. Instead, we must see in every person a universe with its own secrets, with its own treasures, with its own sources of anguish, and with some measure of triumph" (Elie Wiesel, from The Nazi Doctors and the Nuremberg Code).

What's Up with the Epigraph?

Elie Wiesel is a Holocaust survivor and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. His best-known work, Night, is a memoir of his survival in Nazi concentration camps. Skloot's epigraph comes from Wiesel's forward to a collection of papers on medical ethics (or lack thereof) of Nazi doctors and scientists.

Skloot has in mind the treatment of the Lacks family by most of the scientific community, who could never get why they might be upset by the creation and distribution of HeLa cells. Wiesel sums up this kind of thinking best: "Their sense of reality was impaired. Human beings were not human beings in their eyes. They were abstractions." (ix)

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