“Susan T said: 5 stars
What is there to say about a book so widely acclaimed? What can I possibly add to the discourse? Truthfully, there isn't much I can say that hasn't been said before, so I will keep this brief.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is journalist Rebecca Skloot's first book, and it was ten years in the writing. In that time, she didn't merely research her subject matter thoroughly, she became a participant in the story she was writing. As a biology student, Rebecca's interest was piqued when she learned of the contribution to medicine and science of a cell line called HeLa--the first ever "immortal" human cell line. Immortal because the cells would continue to reproduce in culture indefinitely, as long as they were fed and cared for. It had been going on for decades. What Rebecca wondered was: Where did these cells come from? Therein lies the tale...
Nowadays, it is relatively common knowledge that these cells were cultured from a woman named Henrietta Lacks who died of cervical cancer back in 1951. That wasn't always the case. Ms. Lacks' identity, and the contribution she unwittingly made to the world, was obscured for years. Unwittingly, because the culture of her tumor was taken without her knowledge or consent. This was common practice at the time.
The book covers a lot of territory. There is detailed biographical information about the life and death of Henrietta Lacks. There is a lot of information about the contribution of the HeLa cells to science, from helping develop the polio vaccine, to going up into space. There is a thorough discussion of the bio-medical ethics in general, of the sad history of this issue and race, and in light of current issues and technology. And, finally, it is very much the story of the family that Henrietta Lacks left behind, her husband, five children, and innumerable cousins, and their interactions and relationship with the author.
Material that could have been overly complex or dry is absolutely engrossing. And all subject matter is handled with sensitivity and intelligence. It was all so interesting, but I think my favorite parts were the ethical discussions, past, present, and future. Reading the shameful history is painful. Unfortunately, in many ways the present isn't much of an improvement. Ms. Skloot ends her book in a primer of the issues we face moving forward. Hopefully, the more educated we are, the better we can protect ourselves and others. For now, it's a small step forward to see this subject matter gain such wide readership. And happily, there seems to be little danger of Henrietta's name or contribution being lost to history again.
JudithG said: 5 stars -audio version narrated by Cassandra Campbell and Bahni Turpin
I can’t recall any other non-fiction book which held my attention so completely from beginning to end. Initially Rebecca Skloot set out to tell the story of Henrietta Lacks, the poor black woman whose cancerous cells provided the medium for much of current biological knowledge and technical expertise. Over the course of ten years of research, Skloot becomes closely associated with Henrietta’s ancestors, in particular, her daughter, Deborah. Lacks family history touches many of the saddest aspects of racial discrimination and exploitation.
As we all benefit from the advances in science provided in part from Henrietta’s unknowing contribution, her children and grandchildren still bear the scars of the past. Skloot makes much of the fact that while Henrietta’s cells advanced medical science exponentially, her remaining family cannot afford adequate medical care. As a teacher, I was struck by another aspect to the problem. Skloot portrays the Lacks family respectfully. For the most part they appear as intelligent people. But they are intelligent people with a shocking ignorance of basic scientific principles. Add the lack of education to their well justified lack of trust, it’s not surprising that the Lacks family harbors great anger and resentment to the medical establishment.
The audio performance of this book was very well done. It held my attention even through explanations of legal precedent and discussions of bioethics. An added bonus was an interview with the author on the last CD.
ghost of a rose said: 5 stars
This book is 50% biography and 50% science; and it adds up to 100% fascinating. Wow - I couldn't put it down!
I have worked with HeLa cells many times during my career in microbiology, and I've always wondered about the woman from whom they originated. I was always very much aware that behind every one of the medical tests I performed lay a real person whose life might depend on the accuracy and insight of my work. I wanted to know as much as possible about that person, both to keep my focus on the real reason for the work I was doing, and to gain insight that might contribute to the patient's diagnosis and treatment.
And although I knew that "HeLa" had died in 1951, I felt the same way about working with the cells from her malignant cervical tumor. I wanted to know more about her, to always be aware of and empathetic to the real person and her suffering. But I graduated before Rebecca Skloots did, at a time when even less was known about "HeLa." I didn't know Henrietta Lacks' name, that she was African-American, her age when she died, or how long she was ill; and I had never seen the photo of her that is now so famous. I wondered whether she had any children, and what became of them when she died.
So I was thrilled when this book came out, and it has been on my "priority tbr" list since I first heard of it. It lived up to, and even exceeded, my expectations. It answered all my questions, and brought up many new ones, the answers to some of which may never be known.
Henrietta's life was a hard one. She lost her own mother at the age of four and was raised by her grandparents. Life for her was an endless struggle against poverty. But one thing she did have was a large and close-knit extended family. Even without a mother, she learned well the arts of caring and nurturing; and all of her adult life she fed and took in other family members who needed help. She married a cousin with whom she'd grown up, and they had five children. There doesn't seem to be so much as a hint of a rumor that she ever had any other lover in all her life. But life was unfair to Henrietta. Her husband was a notorious philanderer, with the result that she was constantly plagued by sexually transmitted diseases. One of them - HPV - gave her cervical cancer and was also the reason for her cells' immortality. (Normal cells live for only about 50 divisions, then die. But the HeLa cells cultured from Henrietta's tumor are still living and reproducing sixty years later, and that is what makes them so valuable to science.) Henrietta had three venereal diseases at the same time during her cancer treatments. Her cancer was incredibly aggressive, and she died after months of terrible agony. One can only hope that her spirit survives somewhere to know that the tragedy of her life was given meaning by her contribution to medical science - arguably the most important in the history of medicine.
The story of Henrietta's older daughter Elsie is even more heartbreaking. She was born deaf, mute, epileptic, and perhaps retarded due to congenital syphilis (meaning she contracted it in her mother's womb. All 5 of the Lacks children suffered neural hearing disabilities from the same cause.) At least one family member believes that Elsie may not have been retarded at all, but was simply unable to communicate due to her deafness. No matter what her IQ might have been, her story is utterly horrifying. A photo of Elsie from when she still lived at home shows her to be a strikingly beautiful child; and also clean, healthy, and happy. But when Henrietta became so ill, she could no longer care for her daughter and Elsie was institutionalized. What happened to the 11-year-old girl in the Crownsville State Hospital for the Negro Insane is so shocking and awful that it's almost unbelievable. This part of the book is very difficult to read, but it's important that people know - both to honor Elsie's memory, and to make sure that such things do not happen again.
Henrietta died before her younger daughter Deborah was old enough to remember her, and Deborah was to spend the rest of her life longing for information about her mother and sister, trying to forge some kind of connection with her lost ones. Deborah's help and commitment to finding the truth was vital in the writing of this book.
Sloot comes across as sincere and as having developed a genuine and lasting bond with Henrietta's family, rather than as simply a dispassionate and objective reporter. This was instrumental to her research, as the family had been "burned" several times by unscrupulous characters who only wanted to cash in on the story for their own profit. It made the Lacks family defensive and ultra cautious. Before Skloot could even begin writing the book, she first had to win their trust. And she does seem to have honored that, by setting up a scholarship trust fund for the education of Henrietta's descendants and donating a portion of the book's profits to it. Another, indirect, result of this book is the donation of tombstones for Henrietta's and her daughter Elsie's previously unmarked graves.
The information given in the book about the ways in which Henrietta's cells have contributed to science and helped other people is fascinating and amazing! Without HeLa, the polio vaccine and the most effective cancer medications wouldn't exist; nor could the HIV virus have been identified. And these are just the beginning: the list goes on and on.
The book concludes with a thorough discussion of the ethics of medical research on human tissues. Henrietta's sons have a strong sense of injustice that their mother's cells were taken without her knowledge or permission, and that so many people have made vast amounts of money off of them while her children cannot afford basic medical care. And who can blame them? They do have a point. Patient privacy is another problem that arises when working with human cells, especially now that their DNA can be fingerprinted. Skloot interviews many experts with widely varying opinions about these issues, and shows us how extremely complex the matter is, with no easy answers.
The book includes some great photos. And if you go to the author's website, you can see many more photos, including some of the ones described but not included in the book. http://rebeccaskloot.com/
My one criticism of this book was that it left some questions unanswered that probably could have been answered. Especially - and this one's driving me crazy - what were the caged creatures that frightened Margaret Lacks so, when she got lost in the basement of Johns Hopkins Hospital - the "man-sized rabbits"? (I'm guessing kangaroos.) Also, why were Henrietta's children allowed to be born with damage from congenital syphilis? Why wasn't Henrietta treated for it? Her first two kids (including Elsie) were born at home, so she probably didn't have access to professional medical care at that time. But the others were born in hospitals. Was it that she didn't have any prenatal care, so that by the time she was in labor it was too late? Or that the effective penicillin treatment wasn't commonly available yet? Was it available but not given to indigent black patients?
I also noticed that Skloots uses the inaccurate term "hereditary syphilis" rather than the correct "congenital syphilis." But given the extensive amount of research she did (the book took 10 years to write) I suspect that was a deliberate choice rather than an error. Skloots may have felt that readers without a scientific background would better understand the word "hereditary". Actually "hereditary" refers to features that are inherited by way of genes; "congenital" simply means that a person is born with some condition, and it may or may not be hereditary. Syphilis is not a genetic disease, but one that comes from being infected by the microorganism. In congenital syphilis, the fetus is infected while in the womb and the disease has already caused permanent damage by the time the baby is born.
Further evidence of the massive research project undertaken by Ms. Skloots can be seen in the appendices. The "Acknowledgments" section is actually interesting to read, as it gives further information about members of the Lacks family and their story. And beware when reading the "Notes" section - as well as thousands of technical scientific articles, it describes hundreds of interesting-sounding books for further reading that might threaten to overwhelm your tbr list!
Oprah Winfrey and Alan Ball are working together on producing a movie based on The Immortal Life on Henrietta Lacks. Thanks to this book, Henrietta and her family are finally getting the recognition they deserve. On the inside back of the book jacket, there is a website address given where you can donate to the foundation for the education of Henrietta's descendants. I hope that everyone who reads the book will do that, even if they can only afford a small contribution. HenriettaLacksFoundation.org
She said: 5 stars
An excellent biography of Henrietta Lacks, her children, her extended family, her immortal cell-line and the advances in science because of her contributions. The story also includes the bioethics of today's research, and how the lack of protective laws allowed her cell-line to become a multi-billion dollar business without recompense for Henrietta or her heirs.
diamondgirl said: 5 stars
Henrietta Lacks went to John Hopkins Hospital in the 1950's for abnormal bleeding she was having. The gynecologist diagnosed her as having cervical cancer and ordered a biopsy. While have the procedure, the doctor took part of her cervix and sent it to Dr. George Gey. Dr. Gey was performing tests on cells to see if he could make them grow. Henrietta's cells had a life of their own. After years of testing and failing, Dr. Gey finally had a group of cells that stayed alive and continued multiplying allowing him and others in his field to use them in different medical tests. Henrietta's cells were called HeLa, based on the first 2 initials of her first and last name. Through the use of tests run using HeLa the vaccine for polio was developed, along with many other medical advances. No one thought anything of it, and the scientists were thrilled to have this breakthrough. The only thing was, they never got Henrietta or anyone in her family's permission to take that sample during surgery. In fact, the family didn't know anything about it.
I was not sure what to expect with this book but it definitely was not the amazing story I have been consumed with for the past 5 days. At times funny, heartbreaking, and astounding, Skloot takes you to Baltimore, where she attempts to speak to Henrietta's family for her book, to the basement of John Hopkins Hospital, to a mental institute where Henrietta's one daughter died. It is astounding to me that these cells were taken without any one's permission, scientists have made numerous medical advances and money working with them, while Henrietta's own children and grandchildren could not afford an education or health insurance. The trials this family has been through will always stay with me.
The one point that really made me fall into this book, was that race did not come into it. Henrietta was a black woman. The scientists for the most part were white men. But her daughter, Deborah, who is one of the focal points of this amazing story, understands that what her family went through has nothing to do with black or white, even though her brothers think at times think otherwise. It has to do with doctors thinking they know what is best, and us, as patients, going along with what they say because we feel they really do know best. It has to do with family and the ties that bind and some times break. Deborah is 50 years old and has no memory of her mother whatsoever because she was an infant when the cancer took her life. All people ever want to ask her and talk to her about are HeLa cells; and she just wants to know what her mom smelled like, what was she like as a person? I wish I could give this amazing story more than 5 stars. Every time I have any test done now I will wonder, are they running tests on my cells as well? And do they have the right to do that at all?
Lauran L said: 4 stars
Henrietta was a poor black tobacco farmer whose cancer cells, taken without her knowledge, became one of the most important tools in medicine. All the Lacks family wanted, and especially Henrietta’s daughter Deborah, was to understand what happened to their mother and her cells, to have Henrietta’s significant contribution to science recognized and to be able to afford the advances in medicine made possible by HeLa. It took author Rebecca Skloot, who had the patience, desire and empathy, to help the Lacks family achieve some of those goals. First and foremost the book is a touching tribute to Henrietta Lacks and her family. Working in healthcare I found the evolution of informed consent and privacy laws (HIPAA) discussed in the book fascinating. Skloot writes about the science surrounding HeLa in a very approachable way. And you’ll finish the book thinking about the ownership of your own cells and the price of medical advances.
Tenia F said: 5 stars
When Henrietta Lacks entered the colored side of John Hopkins hospital in the 1950's complaining about a hard lump, she was diagnosed with cancer. What she did not know, and that her family did not find out for twenty years, was that some of her cells were taken for research. These cells, named HeLA, became the first cells to be able to be grown in culture. They are still alive today, and still being used in research. Henrietta died when her children were little, and it wasn't until they were grown that her mother's cells were being used for research. This is an amazing storie.
Cora R said: 4 stars
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks follows the mission of Rebecca Skloot to find out more about the woman whose cells were taken and turned into the first immortal human cell line, HeLa. I found a lot of the ethical dilemmas raised in the book to be fascinating. I also found it interesting to learn so much about the history of medical research. While the story of Henrietta's daughter's search for answers about her mother, the cells, and her sister did shed some light on how the decisions of others affected Henrietta's children, I found it a little less interesting than the life of Henrietta herself and the history of the HeLa cells. I am glad I read this book. It gave me a lot of things to think about and taught me a lot about the history of science.
Julie g said: 5 stars and a favourite.
Rebecca Skloot becomes interested in the person behind the HeLa cells she is taught about in science class.This will lead her to take a journey into Henrietta's family and through the history of science in America.Born into a poor black family Henrietta Lacks was set to become the most important woman to have ever been born.The cancer cells that would be the death of her were set to transform the whole scientific society.How tragic that her children should be left poor and without proper health insurance when those using their mothers cells would be passing them around for a few dollars and eventually Henrietta's cells would become a multi-million dollar industry.I was moved to tears by the inhumanity of these doctors who were so willing to use her and even recall her family back for what they thought were blood tests to check them for cancer.They were really tests to help them further their research.This was not an isolated case.This book uncovers a heartbreaking amount of injustice most specifically aimed at the poor black people of the area around Hawkins.
Ellen R said: 4 stars
Henrietta Lacks was a young mother in the early 1950's when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. During treatment at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore some of Henrietta's cancerous tissue was removed and became the scientifically famous HeLa cells, the first immortal human cells grown in culture. These cells would lead to astounding breakthroughs in the worlds of medicine, research, and science helping to develop drugs to treat innumerable diseases. The ethics of the removal and treatment of Henrietta's cells are the basis of Rebecca Skloot's well-researched book about Henrietta, her family, and the immortal HeLa.
Henrietta's daughter Deborah was the family member who Skloot spent the majority of her time interviewing although Deborah and the rest of the family were at first reluctant to take part in Skloot's research. The Lacks family felt they had been taken advantage of countless times since Henriett's death and also felt that they should be compensated for the millions of dollars generated by HeLa's research. Although Deborah remained suspicious of Skloot's motives for years they eventually became friends and were able to uncover many facts about Henrietta's life and death as well as that of Deborah's older sister, Elsie, who had been institutionalized at a young age.
This book could easily be a 5-star read for me except that so much of the science was beyond my comprehension. That is not the fault of the author but of my own education I would think. I found so much of this book powerful: Deborah and Zakariyya viewing HeLa cells under a microscope and knowing that was a living part of Henrietta, the terrible images Deborah had in her mind of the pain her mother's cells must have felt when they were injected with diseases or blown-up in bomb testing, the unspeakable tragedy of the way Henrietta's children were treated by a 'care-giver' after their mother's death, the fact that the Lacks family scrambled to pay for health insurance and medicines when companies using HeLa have earned billions of dollars. There are no easy answers to the question of tissue ownership once it has been removed from the body and I never realized the extent of the debate over this matter. I highly recommend this book.
Michelle G said: 5 stars and a heart
Henrietta Lacks is known by scientists all over the world as "HeLa". HeLa cells, the cells of this poor, black woman from the South, have been growing since 1951. The first "immortal" cells in culture, the HeLa cells have led to some amazing scientific discoveries - a polio vaccine, discoveries leading to new cancer treatments, etc. Though many know of the cells, no one knew much about the woman, the human being, that the cells came from.
Skloot looks at the life of Henrietta Lacks. The reader learns about her growing up and background, her illness (cervical cancer) and it's diagnosis and treatment in the "colored " ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 50s. We also come to read about her death from cancer and how her cells have lived on since her death and how all of this affected her family, especially her daughter Deborah.
This was a fascinating story. You come to see that behind every tissue sample being grown in cell culture (thousands and thousands), there is an individual human being with a story. I learned a lot about cell culture and all the ways Henrietta's cells have benefitted us in layman's terms. The personal story of her family and what the loss of Henrietta meant for them and the fact that they never have benefitted from this multi-million dollar business that their mother's cells created was heartbreaking and thought provoking. I thought the story was a perfect mix of science and personal interest. A very compelling read that will challenge you to think about the ethics of current scientific practice, the issue of education and disclosure and consent to those involved in research, and to appreciate the amazing progress that has been made because of the scientific contributions resulting from all this research. A great book for discussion if you are in a reading group.
kolibri said: 4.5 stars
The story about Henrietta Lacks cannot be complete when it isn't told along with the cancerous cells taken from her cervix, which proved to be immortal, and thus changed science. The HeLa cells were cultured and distributed all over the world bringing forward a new era of cellular research and advances in scientific technology as well as medical treatments. They were used in many experiments, such as vaccine research and cloning, the cells even went to space. Yet, very little is known about the woman, her life or her family. Rebecca Skloot attempted to change this.
Now I know that the real sad part of the story is the devastation of a family when its unifying force, a mother, a wife or a sister is taken away. And though the valuable cells should be a source of pride for the family they got to know about it far too late. Not to mention any monetary compensation. Millions or even billions of dollars were made out of the HeLa cells but still the family couldn't afford to pay their own medical bills.
I also learned about informed consent and that it wasn't 'law', which means it wasn't necessary to inform a patient about the medical procedures he or she is going to take in the 50s. Very much has changes since.
The book was light on the scientific side, everybody can understand what is going on in this book. I struggled with the cell's importance, of which I was remembered every other page although I already grasped it with the first chapter.
It is remarkable that Skloot was finally able to get Henrietta's story, because of being persistent, calling the family over and over to get them spill the beans, but I can't get rid of the feeling that she might have been a real pain in the a.. by doing so.
Final words: I learned about 'them' cells.
Vonnie said: 4 stars
This is a book of non-fiction that talks about how the HeLa cells came to be. HeLa came from a black woman, Henrietta Lacks. The cells have survived longer than Henrietta had and have multiplied tremendously allowing scientists to use them for all sorts of experiments. Scientists were also able to discover new cures and learn more about DNA. Henrietta and her family had no clue that her cells have changed the world of science. Is it right for scientist to take someone's cells without permission and profit from them while the "donor" and her/his family suffer through poverty? This question is asked often throughout the book.
It's very rare when I actually sit down and read an entire non-fiction book. This book was well written and Skloot did a wonderful job in making a non-fiction text be read like a fiction one. I do recommend this text.
Alli formally awelker said: 3.5 stars rounded to 4
Ok so I received this book from Care from her give away on her blog and I am really thankful that I read this book. I really enjoyed the first part of the book and felt that it didn't read much like a nonfiction book, however, once I got to the third part I felt that it was very scientific and that she concentrated more on the science part then the family itself.
I would recommend this book to anyone that is really interested in science as it was a rather enjoyable read but one that I felt like the beginning was more enjoyable then the end.
My favorite part of the book was when she actually went and talked to the family. I liked to hear about what they thought of the entire thing and not so much what Skloot thought about it.
I'm not sure how I feel about the family getting any compensation for the cells worth. One one hand I can see how they aren't really entitled to anything seeing that at the time it was taken for sheer research, Gey didn't intentionally mean to make that money, but on the other hand I think that they are due something for their pain and suffering, if anyone Deborah's children for everything that the stress put her through.
Tien H said: 4 stars
My 2 main thoughts for this book are "sad" and "thought-provoking".
SAD because what's happened to Henrietta Lacks and her children. I'm talking about the social effects of being treated differently as "coloured people" from back way when. Being of ethnic origin, I can attest to the Un-pleasantness of being treated as different (though I am lucky being different today is NOT as it was back then).
THOUGHT-PROVOKING for the book touches of 'gray areas' concerns. Is there any limit of scientific research? Privacy issues? Money issues? Progress? Cloning? Truly, the book provides no solutions nor does it propose any such thing as the purpose of the book is in CELEBRATION of Henrietta Lacks who had, inadvertently, provided the world with many healty reasons :)
Speaking for an UN-scientific minded (mine), this book is so fresh and definitely NOT boring. The very human-touch notes of the book is what really makes this book; especially to one as such myself.
JoLene R said: 4 stars
By now, I think most people have at least heard of this book, so I'm not going to spend much time on the summary. It was on my TBR pile for a while, but when this came out, I had just found out that I had breast cancer. While under treatment, the last thing I wanted to read about was another person who had cancer.
Overall, I found this book extremely readable. I often have a hard time reading non-fiction, but the narrative format really worked for me. Using a timeline at the beginning of the chapter, Skloot intersperses the story of Henrietta, her family, the science that the HeLa cells line enabled, and the ethical issues of informed consent, privacy and profitting from medical research. As someone who has directly benefited (although I suppose most of us have) from the research, I was most interested in the scientific aspects of the book.
The story of Henrietta's family is heartbreaking and at times, difficult to read. Their story highlights how difficult it is to break the cycle of poverty. The fact that drug companies have made billions selling drugs that were tested on the HeLa cell line and her family got no compensation is unjust. However, Skloot highlights the fact that this situation could happen to any one of us still today. I was also fascinated by how the ethical issues evolved over the years. As an example, the discovery of the human genome during this time raised privacy issues since Henrietta's children share her DNA.
Overall, I would recommend this book as a thought-provoking examination of medical research ethics.
Book Concierge said: 5*****
In 1951 Henrietta Lacks died of an aggressive form of cervical cancer, but her cells live on. For the first time, scientists were able to successfully culture living cells from a tissue sample; a tiny sliver of tissue from the cancer that killed Henrietta became the world-known HeLa cells, used in countless research projects. Yet the donor of this remarkable gift to science was never acknowledged, and, in fact, her family was unaware of her contribution for decades. This is the story not only of the HeLa cells, but of the descendants of Henrietta Lacks.
Skloot joins the ranks of Laura Hillenbrand, Erik Larson and Richard Preston in crafting a work of nonfiction that reads like a thriller. I was totally immersed in the book. The scientific story was both fascinating and understandable; the personal story was inspiring and heartbreaking. The scene where Henrietta’s daughter Deborah, who was only a baby when her mother died, shows Skloot the Mother’s Day card she wrote to Henrietta brought me to tears. If I have any complaint at all it’s that the book ended – I wish I were still reading it.
Auntie Nanuuq said: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ♥
Oh My I Could Hardly Put This Down! This story is most definitely going to stay with me for a very long time.
Henrietta Lacks was a young Black woman who was being treated for cancer @ the Johns Hopkins Hospital, back in 1951. Her doctor, a world famous cancer specialist took samples of her uterus cells, both normal & cancerous. He passed those cells (called HeLa) on to a scientist by the name of George Gey, who was experimenting with growing "immortal" human cells for medicinal experimentation. While the "normal" HeLa cells dies, the ones from the tumor flourished and grew, and grew...and are still growing. HeLa cells became world famous and were sold to most any scientist who was experimenting with disease for about $10 and S&H. HeLa cells were used to test the Salk vaccine......
This story, which is not merely one of science & medical research, but one of a lovely woman & her family broke my heart. From the stand point of Henrietta's family they were owed much and endured more....but as I read on, I saw that the love within the family was strong & carries over to present time.
The one thing that bothers me to no end and causes me sadness is the fact that no one told the family until years later....and that to this day, the medical community has gained millions/billions of dollars in profit from Henrietta's cells, but no restitution for the remaining family what-so-ever.
This is one of the most beautiful books I have ever read, and it is one I will add to my personal library.
Nicole D said: 5/5
This is the kind of non-fiction I like. A well-written, well-researched, passion project which is written like a novel. This is an important book, full of fascinating information and so many things to think about.
Everybody should read it.
Sarah C said: 3 stars
Glad I final got around to reading this, I've owned it for awhile and other things got in the way.
This was a great in depth look at a lot of different aspects into how things were done in the medical community and the new technologies, policies, and procedures coming out at that time. I found that even though the focus was primarily on the mistreatment of African Americans, there were examples through out the book of the medical field taking a lot of liberties with everyone. This was a lot more scientific than I was expecting, but not too hard to follow at all. Henrietta's personal life and then later the life of her descendants added the personal touches to balance out the book nicely. It will be interesting to see in the future what role her cells will play in the advance of human lives against diseases.
serenity said: 4 stars
This is a fascinating and very personal look at Henrietta Lacks, whose cancer cells were so unique that they became immortal, making it possible for numerous breakthroughs in scientific research. It also puts a spotlight on her family, whose privacy was violated when Henrietta's name was released. This book not only highlights the many achievements of Henrietta's cells, but also offers a personal glimpse into how the knowledge of those immortal cells has affected the family Henrietta left behind. Powerful, painful, and very real, this is a fantastic nonfiction account of these events. I got swept up in the story and was interacting with the Lackses right along with Rebecca. I laud Rebecca for the time she took to make such a book- sensitive to the personalities involved as well as entirely factual, telling the whole truth about those wonderful cells for the very first time.
Regina L said: 5 Stars and a heart
I know I'm one of the few people left to have read this, but WOW.
In the early 1950's Henrietta Lacks, a young mother, was diagnosed and subsequently died from a vary aggressive form of ovarian cancer. Cells from her tumor were removed without her knowledge, which was a common practice of the time, and became the first, and only line, naturally continuing to divide until this day. The research on her cells is responsible for much of the medical advancements since the 50's. While any of us who enjoy a better quality of life or have benefited from life saving treatment owe a debt to Mrs. Lacks, Skloot presents some fascinating ethical debates that not only look back to Henrietta's treatment, but will continue to evolve has technology and advancements progress. It certainly made me stop and think.
LibraryCin said: 4.5 stars
Henrietta Lacks was only 31 when she died of cervical cancer in 1951. Before she died, though, the doctors at Johns Hopkins, the only hospital she could go to because it was the only one close by that would treat poor black people, took some of the cancer cells from her, without her knowledge. Those cells produced results in all kinds of scientific testing for decades after Henrietta died, and they continue to be tested on. Her family, meanwhile, continues to live in poverty and cannot afford their own health care.
This book lived up to expectations for me. I know most people have probably already read this who are interested in reading this, but I found this so fascinating. I like biographies, so the biographical part of the book was interesting for me, both Henrietta's bio and her family's. The author had to work so hard to even get Henrietta's family to talk to her at all, then to trust her. I found a good portion of the scientific/medical info interesting, as well, but occasionally, there were bits and pieces that were a little over my head, although most of it was explained so it was fairly easy to understand. I just wanted to keep reading this book, and to get back to reading it when I wasn't. So, this book is a little bit biography, a little bit science, a little bit ethics (or a lot ethics?), and it will make my favourites list for the year.”