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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (edition 2011)

by Rebecca Skloot

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
7,779556433 (4.14)2 / 719
Member:CCMS
Title:The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Authors:Rebecca Skloot
Info:Broadway (2011), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 400 pages
Collections:Main Collection
Rating:
Tags:Human experimentation, cancer

Work details

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

  1. 130
    The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman (kidzdoc)
  2. 50
    Medical Apartheid by Harriet A. Washington (lives4laughs, fannyprice)
  3. 40
    The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson (bunnygirl)
    bunnygirl: personal history and stories linked with the larger African American history. if you were wondering about Skloot's reference to the Lacks family being part of the Great Migration, this book explains exactly what it is and tells the stories of three families in a similar manner.… (more)
  4. 40
    A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines (krazy4katz)
    krazy4katz: Reading "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks," I was pained by the impoverished lives of people who still lived on plantations in the 1940s - lack of schooling, lack of health care, lack of any kind of decent housing etc. "A Lesson Before Dying" more directly addresses the life of people still living on plantations in the '40s. Even though I sort of knew this, it was an emotional shock to truly recognize that all the abuse and oppression did not end with the Civil War but was still there 80 years later.… (more)
  5. 30
    Body Hunters: How the Drug Industry Tests Its Products On the World's Poorest Patients by Sonia Shah (legxleg)
  6. 63
    Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach (VenusofUrbino)
    VenusofUrbino: If you like well-researched and well-written non-fiction like "Immortal Life" then you will also appreciate Mary Roach.
  7. 20
    The Mapmaker's Wife: A True Tale of Love, Murder, and Survival in the Amazon by Robert Whitaker (sboyte)
    sboyte: Fascinating stories of the people behind great scientific discoveries.
  8. 31
    Better by Atul Gawande (Othemts)
  9. 20
    The Plutonium Files: America's Secret Medical Experiments in the Cold War by Eileen Welsome (barbharris1)
  10. 21
    The Wandering Gene and the Indian Princess by Jeff Wheelwright (LeesyLou)
    LeesyLou: If you have an interest in the social and personal ethics and background of medical care, this adds to your understanding. Minority cultures and personal medical ethics are equally poorly understood by many practitioners.
  11. 10
    Life Itself: Exploring the Realm of the Living Cell by Boyce Rensberger (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: Cell cultures are being used to study diseases as well as cure them. Learn about the cell cultures called 'HeLa' in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and read about cell cultures' utility as a whole in Life Itself.
  12. 10
    The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee by Marja Mills (akblanchard)
    akblanchard: In both books, journalists get personally involved with their subjects.
  13. 00
    The Juggler's Children: A Family History Gene by Gene by Carolyn Abraham (sboyte)
  14. 00
    The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History by John M. Barry (LKAYC)
  15. 11
    Tissue and Cell Donation: An Essential Guide by Ruth M. Warwick (Limelite)
    Limelite: Scientific discussion of medical/ethical, and other considerations regarding patients' rights and the medical profession's responsibilities on the subject, as well as other pertinent procedures.
  16. 12
    The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson (macart3)
    macart3: Deals with bioethics and human experimentation without others' consent.
  17. 04
    The Dangerous Joy of Dr. Sex and Other True Stories by Pagan Kennedy (Othemts)
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English (550)  Japanese (1)  German (1)  Catalan (1)  Swedish (1)  French (1)  Piratical (1)  All languages (556)
Showing 1-5 of 550 (next | show all)
WOW! What a story! Never knew that this really happened. ( )
  adeleb88 | Jun 25, 2016 |
This was a really good read and educational as well. It tells the story not just of the first line of immortal cells but also of the woman that they were taken from.

Some of the so-called professionals involved do not come across well, especially the doctor who believing that cancer was caused either by a virus or by an immune system deficiency decided that the best way to prove this was by injecting people with cancer cells. The first dozen people he injected had already been treated for cancer and were not told that this is what he was doing, he told them he was running tests. When he decided to carry out the tests on healthy people he used prisoners who were told what he was injecting them with, when he carried out later tests again he did it without telling the patients what he was injecting into them, they were told that they were being tested for cancer the doctor's theory being that if their immune systems killed the cancerous cells that he had injected into them then there was no cancer present but if their immune system failed to kill the cells then they must have cancer. This only stopped when three doctors refused to inject elderly Jewish patients with the cells and then went public with what was happening. The doctor was eventually suspended from practising for a year but at no time did he or many of his colleagues think that they had done anything wrong. I don't understand the mindset that allows you to think that deliberately infecting people with cancer or hepatitis is the right thing to do in the interests of science.

However there were some scientists who did come across well and who felt that Henrietta's family had been very badly treated. There are many people who have made fortunes from developments made possible using Henrietta's cells and yet her family can't afford medical insurance. I know that the drug companies and the biotech companies have no legal obligation to the Lacks family but given the amount of money that they have made from these cells it would be decent of them to at least set up a trust fund so that Henrietta's descendants could go to college if they wanted to or even get the medical treatment that they needed. ( )
  KarenDuff | Jun 1, 2016 |
Amazing book about a poor black tobacco farmer who cells were taken with her knowledge in 1951. They became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, and more. Her family was never compensated even though her cells have been bought and sold by the billions while her family can't afford health insurance.
I learned so much about cell research and medical science. The whole book was very fascinating and very hard to put down. This book is one that will be hard to forget! ( )
  EadieB | Jun 1, 2016 |
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Rebecca Skloot
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.

( )
  msjudy | May 30, 2016 |
Fabulous little book.

I got completely immersed in the world of the Lacks, and had many a crying moment at various points throughout the book.

The science was just enough to explain it, but the real focus was on Henrietta and her family.

Loved it :) ( )
  GwenMcGinty | May 13, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 550 (next | show all)
Skloot narrates the science lucidly, tracks the racial politics of medicine thoughtfully and tells the Lacks family’s often painful history with grace. She also confronts the spookiness of the cells themselves, intrepidly crossing into the spiritual plane on which the family has come to understand their mother’s continued presence in the world. Science writing is often just about “the facts.” ­Skloot’s book, her first, is far deeper, braver and more wonderful.
 
I put down Rebecca Skloot’s first book, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” more than once. Ten times, probably. Once to poke the fire. Once to silence a pinging BlackBerry. And eight times to chase my wife and assorted visitors around the house, to tell them I was holding one of the most graceful and moving nonfiction books I’ve read in a very long time.
 
Writing with a novelist's artistry, a biologist's expertise, and the zeal of an investigative reporter, Skloot tells a truly astonishing story of racism and poverty, science and conscience, spirituality and family, all driven by a galvanizing inquiry into the sanctity of the body and the very nature of the life force.
added by sduff222 | editBooklist, Donna Seaman (Dec 1, 2009)
 
Henrietta Lacks died of cervical cancer in a “colored” hospital ward in Baltimore in 1951. She would have gone forever unnoticed by the outside world if not for the dime-sized slice of her tumor sent to a lab for research eight months earlier. ...
Skloot, a science writer, has been fascinated with Lacks since she first took a biology class at age 16. As she went on to earn a degree in the subject, she yearned to know more about the woman, anonymous for years, who was responsible for those ubiquitous cells....
 
Skloot tells a rich, resonant tale of modern science, the wonders it can perform and how easily it can exploit society's most vulnerable people.
added by Shortride | editPublishers Weekly
 

» Add other authors (12 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Rebecca Sklootprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Acedo, Sara R.Cover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Campbell, CassandraNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Grip, GöranTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Townsend, MandaPhotographersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Turpin, BahniNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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
Dedication
For my family:

My parents, Betsy and Floyd; their spouses, Terry and Beverly;
my brother and sister-in-law, Matt and Renee;
and my wonderful nephews, Nick and Justin.
They all did without me for far too long because of this book,
but never stopped believing in it, or me.

And in loving memory of my grandfather,
James Robert Lee (1912-2003),
who treasured books more than anyone I've known.
First words
On January 29, 1951, David Lacks sat behind the wheel of his old Buick, watching the rain fall.
Quotations
...But I always have thought it was strange, if our mother cells done so much for medicine, how come her family can't afford to see no doctors? Don't make no sense. People got rich off my mother without us even knowin about them takin her cells, now we don't get a dime. I used to get so mad about that to where it made me sick and I had to take pills. But I don't got it in me no more to fight. I just want to know who my mother was.
----Deborah Lacks
When I tell people the story of Henrietta Lacks and her cells, the first question is usually Wasn't it illegal for doctors to take Henrietta's cells without her knowledge? Don't doctors have to tell you when they use your cells in research? The answer is no--not in 1951, and not in 2009, when this book went to press.
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Wikipedia in English (5)

Book description
Non-fiction. This book is a memoir, a biography, a human interest story w/ racial, legal & moral issues. Covers the journey of the HeLa cells.
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Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer, yet her cells--taken without her knowledge--became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first "immortal" human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer and viruses; helped lead to in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions. Yet Henrietta Lacks is buried in an unmarked grave. Her family did not learn of her "immortality" until more than twenty years after her death, when scientists began using her husband and children in research without informed consent. The story of the Lacks family is inextricably connected to the dark history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over whether we control the stuff we are made of--From publisher description.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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