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Overall, what did you think of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks?

Created: 08/24/11

Replies: 42

Posted Jul. 15, 2011 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
admin

Join Date: 10/11/10

Posts: 369

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Overall, what did you think of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks?

Overall, what did you think of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks?


Posted Jul. 16, 2011 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
marthad

Join Date: 05/10/11

Posts: 25

RE: Overall, what did you think of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks?

There was so much I found fascinating about this story. I have a woman in my book club who is in research medicine so her insight made it even more interesting. I loved the way her family and her story were told.


Posted Jul. 16, 2011 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
kennethr

Join Date: 07/16/11

Posts: 1

RE: Overall, what did you think of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks?

I never expected it to be a page turner, but once I got in to it: I was hooked. I thought it was a great book, a great story, and a great job of telling it. She also raised some medical ethics questions which I thought are still very pertinent.


Posted Jul. 16, 2011 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
davinamw

Join Date: 10/15/10

Posts: 495

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RE: Overall, what did you think of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks?

I agree with Kenneth - even though people had told me it was a page turner, I didn't really think it could be - but it was all fascinating. I listened to it as an audiobook and oftentimes marveled at Rebecca Skloot's storytelling ability - as, the story could so easily have been as dry as desert sand, but was anything but!


Posted Jul. 16, 2011 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
lorie

Join Date: 05/19/11

Posts: 24

RE: Overall, what did you think of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks?

I enjoyed the book. I thought it was very thought-provoking as far as medical ethics are concerned. My book discussion group in general found it one of our better selections.


Posted Jul. 16, 2011 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
marthad

Join Date: 05/10/11

Posts: 25

RE: Overall, what did you think of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks?

I started listening to it at first I realized I needed to read it in order to really get into it. Plus, I like having the pictures to help me get to know everyone.


Posted Jul. 16, 2011 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
dianel

Join Date: 07/16/11

Posts: 15

RE: Overall, what did you think of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks?

I love nonfiction historical books and I happen to be a chemist. This book read like a detective story. Truly Henrietta Lacks is one of the unsung heros of biotechnology. I'm glad that her contribution has been finally told.


Posted Jul. 16, 2011 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
marthad

Join Date: 05/10/11

Posts: 25

RE: Overall, what did you think of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks?

dianel-as a scientist I'm curious on your take (in laymen's terms) why her cells continue to multiply?

Martha - shortly after you posted this question, someone else opened up a separate thread to discuss this topic, you'll find it at http://www.bookbrowse.com/booktalk/messages.cfm?threadid=35CBEAB0-FFAC-581F-C8A57D9927022F39 - Davina (BookBrowse's editor)


Posted Jul. 16, 2011 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
ritah

Join Date: 05/26/11

Posts: 16

RE: Overall, what did you think of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks?

Overall, I thought this was a must-read for anyone who is interested in the advancements of medical science. I knew nothing about Hela cells before reading this and was absolutely amazed by the information in this book. Initially, I thought the author was going to make a major diatribe on the racial issue but was so pleased to see it rise above that and deal with race more as a side issue to the whole subject.


Posted Jul. 16, 2011 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
jop

Join Date: 07/16/11

Posts: 14

RE: Overall, what did you think of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks?

I think this is a brilliant and important book for many reasons: It is important that Henrietta's story be known, and the plight of her family be revealed, just as it is important that the discovery and function of HeLa cells be known. Is healthcare a human right? Do we "own" our own cells? What is informed consent? What, if anything do researchers owe the Lacks family? What, if anything does Rebecca Skloot owe the family? All these are fascinating questions to contemplate.


Posted Jul. 16, 2011 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
dianel

Join Date: 07/16/11

Posts: 15

RE: Overall, what did you think of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks?

Henrietta's cells contained that one in a billion mutation that was beneficial to mankind that happened to be discovered. See my further responses to other questions.

By the way, mutations happen all the time. Most have no impact on cellular function. Those that impact negatively, are usually caught by the DNA replicating process. A specific protein checks each strand of new DNA for errors. Sometimes, however, this mutation makes the cell replicate faster than the protein corrector can check new DNA. This is what we call cancer.


Posted Jul. 16, 2011 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
BarbW

Join Date: 04/09/11

Posts: 13

RE: Overall, what did you think of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks?

Like some of the earlier posters, I liked this book more than I thought I would. We hear all the time about cells being used for this test and that test, but they never mention that a lot of these cells are all HeLa cells, which I find rather mind-boggling.


Posted Jul. 17, 2011 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
barbluvstennis

Join Date: 07/16/11

Posts: 14

RE: Overall, what did you think of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks?

Outstanding book....If I didn't know it was true, it could have been written(changing time and place) as though it was futuristic fiction with a slant toward questions concerning medical ethics and morality....I am an RN with a medical background. I was familiar with the term Hela cells, and I assumed the name was derived from something very "scientific". Amazed to find out it was simply the first two letters of an average black woman's first and last name....One wonders how long the cells and it what capacity they will be considered valuable to scientists and labs. See what I mean about futuristic?


Posted Jul. 17, 2011 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
chetyarbrough.com

Join Date: 05/12/11

Posts: 14

RE: Overall, what did you think of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks?

Excellent--This story is much more than a history of a person’s life. Rebecca Skloot shakes the foundation of the medical profession and tests America’s justice system with the story of “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”.


Posted Jul. 17, 2011 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
susanj

Join Date: 06/18/11

Posts: 17

RE: Overall, what did you think of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks?

I really enjoyed this book. I read it when it first came out because I had read a review in Entertainment Weekly, I believe. I have been surprised about how few people have heard about or read this book. I have recommended it many times. My daughter received her B.S. in nursing from Hopkins and so lived in Baltimore, and this made the book even more relevant for me. I am encouraging my book group to read this book soon.


Posted Jul. 17, 2011 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
sandeo

Join Date: 04/17/11

Posts: 12

RE: Overall, what did you think of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks?

As I am not a scientist I had never heard of the cells, so I was amazed by every part of this story. I was drawn in by the personal tragedy as well as the scientific advances that came about because of this woman's life and death. It was one of the most important books I have ever read.


Posted Jul. 17, 2011 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
corinne

Join Date: 06/17/11

Posts: 1

RE: Overall, what did you think of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks?

The doctors made me angry with their disregard of Henrietta as a person. Also, thinking that it is ok to take from a person and profit and not make sure the donor benefits from the profit you make off them is a disgrace.

I was saddened by the pain and suffering that Henrietta was enduring toward the end of her life. What happened to making the patient comfortable during their last days?

How can you have so little regard for the family of the patient by not telling them what you are doing with the cells of their mother? This was not a normal case, and I believe that they had a moral obligation to disclose to the family what was happening and all the discoveries made from Henrietta's cells.

I enjoyed the book and found that my sense of injustice made the book a page turner.


Corinne
Posted Jul. 17, 2011 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
florencek

Join Date: 07/17/11

Posts: 1

RE: Overall, what did you think of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks?

My grandson who is a biochemical graduate student is the only person I know who knew about HeLa cells. I have recommended the book to my family and friends, although it made me very angry about how the Lacks family was treated for so many years after Henrietta's death. I followed this book up by reading THE WARMTH OF OTHER SUNS and I became angrier. Henrietta was treated so shabbily by everyone -- she deserved to die with dignity and without pain. If she had been white and wealthier her way would have been easier. For shame on those who profited at her expense and kudos to Rebecca Skloot for telling this magnificent story.


Posted Jul. 17, 2011 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
paulak

Join Date: 04/21/11

Posts: 16

RE: Overall, what did you think of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks?

All last year, I read rave comments about “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” yet it never found its way on my reading list. I recently jumped at the chance to participate in this Bookbrowse club discussion since I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. All I can say is, I am sure glad I did. Henrietta Lacks was a patient at Hopkins in Baltimore where she sought care for a lump she discovered along her cervix. It just so happened that one of the leading cell culture experts, George Gey, worked at Hopkins where his lab made the discovery that Henrietta’s cancerous cells could do what no other had done: survive in a cell culture and constantly replenish themselves. (And, of course, there is a Pittsburgh connection, which was Gey’s home.)

From that moment, Henrietta’s cells took on a life of their own, literally and figuratively, and shaped the landscape for one of the most provocative, compelling debates in medical science. What right does an individual have over body tissues and the commercialization of products made possible by experimentation with these tissues. In Henrietta’s case, just a small amount of the money derived from work her cells supported could have made a remarkable difference, not only in her medical care but the quality of life and the medical care of her family.

But for me, the most incredible story is that of author Rebecca Skloot who was captivated by the story of Henrietta as a 16-year old, learning about Henrietta in a community college biology class in 1988. Then, on her 27th birthday, Skloot decided to write a book and contacted Roland Pattillo, who opened the door for Rebecca to meet members of Henrietta’s family. These first steps occurred in 1999 and Rebecca finished her book about 10 years later, much of that time spent patiently earning the trust of Henrietta’s children, who had been traumatized and somewhat used by earlier efforts to capture her story, and by following the circuitous trail made by Henrietta’s cells across the globe fueling some of the most remarkable medical achievements of our age. The book is a testimony to Skloot’s patience, persistence and abundant talent. I am awed by her.


Posted Jul. 18, 2011 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
Lea Ann

Join Date: 04/20/11

Posts: 68

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RE: Overall, what did you think of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks?

My husband took ill soon after I got the book and had surgery last week, so I'm playing catch-up here. I'm about half way through the book and am finding it fascinating, even the more scientific parts that elude some of my understanding. I'm looking forward to finishing the book and reading your comments. I don't want to read those until I finish in case there is a "spoiler" therein, though I suppose with a book of this genre that's not very likely.


Posted Jul. 18, 2011 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
nancyo

Join Date: 07/18/11

Posts: 8

RE: Overall, what did you think of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks?

Considering that there is a lot of science in this book (which, sadly, my brain is not geared for!), I came to realize that this is one of the most human stories I've ever read. What happened with Henrietta Lacks and her cells has affected so many people over time - and what's most impressive is that this story was born from Skloot's curiosity about the person behind the Hela cells. Excellent book.


Posted Jul. 18, 2011 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
kathrynk

Join Date: 05/21/11

Posts: 31

RE: Overall, what did you think of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks?

I really enjoyed the book! I had recently heard about the topic on a newscast but I for some reason didn't connect it to the book until it came in the mail. I was actually horrified when I first heard about this woman
and how her cells were used without her knowledge or approval. The book laid it all out and it made quite an impression on me.


Posted Jul. 20, 2011 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
elizabethg

Join Date: 07/16/11

Posts: 7

RE: Overall, what did you think of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks?

It was a page-turner. So thoroughly researched and really told in a way that gives you the entire story. Very impressive work.


Posted Jul. 21, 2011 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
shellyb

Join Date: 07/04/11

Posts: 11

RE: Overall, what did you think of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks?

Overall, I enjoyed the book, although the story of the family is sad. I didn't understand all of the medical information in the book, but I got the jist of it. I initially wanted to use this book for a book club I facillitate, but many women were against it. That's why i requested the book. I finished the book on my criuse to Alaska. Now, that's dedication.


Posted Jul. 21, 2011 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
Lea Ann

Join Date: 04/20/11

Posts: 68

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RE: Overall, what did you think of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks?

As did the others who posted replies to this question, I too found the book difficult to put down. I didn't understand all of the technicalities, especially in the afterword, but what I did understand was/is fascinating. I am so pleased that the author undertook this self-assignment and included so much about Henrietta and her family, especially the children.

I have a granddaughter whose goal is to be a research scientist who is a junior at the University of Cincinnati to whom I intend to mail this book. I hope she has time to read it as I believe it will be an inspiration to her.


Posted Jul. 23, 2011 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
caryll

Join Date: 04/15/11

Posts: 6

RE: Overall, what did you think of The Immortal of Henrietta Lacks?

I found this book to be fascinating. How medical science grew as a result of this previously "unknown" growth of cells which became the Hela cells. The treatment of the Lacks family was perfectly legal at that time or even thought about as a wrongdoing. Many things have been righted since. It is interesting to see how that works. As for the Lacks family, they are extremely admirable in their reaction to the the whole situation. In our "what's-in-it-for-me" society, this family is to be very blessed.


Posted Jul. 26, 2011 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
scottishrose

Join Date: 07/24/11

Posts: 11

RE: Overall, what did you think of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks?

I thought the book was great. It had been mentioned by a member of my local book group a year or so ago, but I also chose to read it at this time so I could join in the online discussion. I read it in a weekend because I couldn't put it down. I found it fascinating on two levels. First, there is Henrietta's story, the story of a poor, under educated black woman who has really impacted all of our lives in some way. Second, the idea that once a doctor removes something from your body, it is no longer yours. I've always thought they disposed of anything they removed from a person as medical waste, except when you donate blood of course. So it is a bit disturbing to think that maybe part of me is out there somewhere being experimented on and I don't know about it.


Posted Jul. 27, 2011 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
marjoriea

Join Date: 06/14/11

Posts: 8

RE: Overall, what did you think of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks?

I found it very engaging and thought provoking at the same time I felt sort of helpless when I realize how very little control we have over our lives even now. It led to an argument with a scientist friend of mine. I have suggested it for my book club to read in September so I am looking forward to hearing their thoughts.


Posted Jul. 28, 2011 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
terriej

Join Date: 07/28/11

Posts: 88

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RE: Overall, what did you think of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks?

I loved this book! I generally don't like to read "science" books, but found this fascinating. It has raised discussion with friends and co-workers regarding consent forms and the privacy of one's tissue. My book club is very jealous that I received this book because there is a long waiting list for it at the library.


Posted Jul. 28, 2011 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
thewanderingjew

Join Date: 07/28/11

Posts: 5

RE: Overall, what did you think of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks?

The book was excellent. It exposed the terrible tragedy experienced by this family. Although it is technical, it is well written and easy to read. It will move you from page one until the end.
There is an implication in the book, that Henrietta, quite possibly, got substandard care because she was black. The alternate reason for her lack of diagnosis and, perhaps, improper treatment, is that those were the days when patients were kept from knowing the truth of their diagnosis because it was too frightening for them to handle. Yet, although there is evidence that she repeatedly complained, no cancer diagnosis was made until it was, abruptly, way too late and she died a painful, premature death, at 31.
I learned that experimenting on humans, without their consent, was common practice even as late as the fifties, especially, it seems, in the black population. Doctors who thought of themselves as G-dlike, believing the results of their research ultimately justified the means they used, duped their ill patients neither warning or advising them of what they planned. They were experimental subjects and had no clue.
The author's research takes us to the landscape of Henrietta's life. Sadly, while her cells afforded others who had the means, innovative treatments, her own family could not afford anything but the most basic health care.
It was hard to read about the poverty of the Lacks’ existence and reconcile it with the wealth of information her cells have helped to discover, coupled with the financial wealth, as well, that her cells have provided, for those who used them to advance their research.
At one point in the story, Rebecca more or less tells Deborah that if her book is published she will start a fund for the education of Henrietta's heirs. I wonder if she kept her promise or if she, like others, simply used the Lacks family to advance themselves and their projects.
This is a sad book with tragic circumstances but the characters are real and so the impact of the story is profound. Life knocks them down and they keep getting up, trying to rise above the scars caused by the vast deprivation and evil around them and somehow they manage to face life in a simple spiritual way, with an ability to forgive. The component of faith, makes this book's ultimate message, more beautiful. I highly recommend it.


Posted Jul. 30, 2011 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
Carols36

Join Date: 07/30/11

Posts: 1

RE: Overall, what did you think of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks?

I have not been able to finish the book yet, but what I have read so far is really good. Now that I have read all of these reviews, I know that as soon as I pick it up again, I will not be able to put it down.


Posted Jul. 30, 2011 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
elenas

Join Date: 07/30/11

Posts: 1

RE: Overall, what did you think of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks?

This book is so very accurate to the times when polio was was affecting so many. It was really devastating! I have relatives who still remember the news stories and then the pictures of children photographed in their "iron lungs" that helped them breath and kept them alive when they were stricken with polio. Then there are memories of children with extremely heavy leg braces not able to be a part of their school activities. This book presented great information and really shows what an impact HeLa has had on helping to solve the polio epidemic and in helping society. Great book for showing the the poor way the family has been treated, perhaps we will learn from that terrible mistake. I'm very very happy to have read it!


Posted Aug. 05, 2011 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
MG

Join Date: 04/23/11

Posts: 3

RE: Overall, what did you think of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks?

I'm almost done with the book. I find it fascinating what happened to her cells and also to find out more about scientific research in the past. I'm troubled to read about what happened to her family though. This book is also a disturbing glimpse into what happens to families stuck in poverty.


Posted Aug. 07, 2011 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
anitas

Join Date: 08/07/11

Posts: 2

RE: Overall, what did you think of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks?

I was a research biologist and used HeLa cells in my experiments. They are as common in laboratories as aspirin is in medicine. Many times I wondered about the origin of these cells and in particular their unusual name. I first heard about this book when the author was interviewed on NPR and of course I immediately downloaded the book on my e-reader. This book is terrific! Not only does it tell the story of the HeLa cells but also describes how difficult scientific research was at that time. Henrietta' s life and her family's life make this book one of the best non-fiction I've read in a long time.


Posted Aug. 11, 2011 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
kristinann1

Join Date: 08/11/11

Posts: 3

RE: Overall, what did you think of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks?

I thought this book was fascinating. I got to wondering if any of my tissues had been used in research, since I had cancer twenty years ago. This books certainly brings up many moral and ethical issues. I think it is shameful nothing has been done to honor Henrietta Lacks except for this book.


bookwalk1
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