The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

by Rebecca Skloot | Biographies & Memoirs |
ISBN: 1400052181 Global Overview for this book
Registered by wingbookstogivewing of Springville, Tennessee USA on 4/17/2012
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3 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by wingbookstogivewing from Springville, Tennessee USA on Tuesday, April 17, 2012
2012 World Book Night Book

What is World Book Night?

World Book Night is an annual celebration designed to spread a love of reading and books. To be held in the U.S. as well as the U.K. and Ireland on April 23, 2012. It will see tens of thousands of people go out into their communities to spread the joy and love of reading by giving out free World Book Night paperbacks.

World Book Night, through social media and traditional publicity, will also promote the value of reading, of printed books, and of bookstores and libraries to everyone year-round.

Journal Entry 2 by wingbookstogivewing at Springville, Tennessee USA on Sunday, January 20, 2013
I kept this one to read and now it is ready to travel.

Journal Entry 3 by wingbookstogivewing at Winchester, Massachusetts USA on Thursday, January 31, 2013

Released 8 yrs ago (1/30/2013 UTC) at Winchester, Massachusetts USA

CONTROLLED RELEASE NOTES:

Sending out as part of the Tag Game, enjoy!

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Journal Entry 4 by wingeponine38wing at Winchester, Massachusetts USA on Saturday, February 16, 2013
Thank you, bookstogive, for sending this through the wishlist tag game! I look forward to reading it.

Journal Entry 5 by wingeponine38wing at Winchester, Massachusetts USA on Monday, October 21, 2013
Amazing. I'd never given any thought to where cells for medical research come from. I commend the author for her long years of research and the relationship she developed with the Lacks family. This is a nicely balanced account of the medical advances made thanks to Henrietta's cells, vs. the sad story of her family and the medical establishment's dealings (or lack thereof) with them. To think of the millions of dollars made by the sale of these cells while the family still lives in poverty without medical insurance is truly heartbreaking.
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Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, 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. If you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they’d weigh more than 50 million metric tons—as much as a hundred Empire State Buildings. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions.

Yet Henrietta Lacks remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave.

Now Rebecca Skloot takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the “colored” ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to stark white laboratories with freezers full of HeLa cells; from Henrietta’s small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia—a land of wooden slave quarters, faith healings, and voodoo—to East Baltimore today, where her children and grandchildren live and struggle with the legacy of her cells.

Henrietta’s family did not learn of her “immortality” until more than twenty years after her death, when scientists investigating HeLa began using her husband and children in research without informed consent. And though the cells had launched a multimillion-dollar industry that sells human biological materials, her family never saw any of the profits. As Rebecca Skloot so brilliantly shows, the story of the Lacks family—past and present—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.

Over the decade it took to uncover this story, Rebecca became enmeshed in the lives of the Lacks family—especially Henrietta’s daughter Deborah, who was devastated to learn about her mother’s cells. She was consumed with questions: Had scientists cloned her mother? Did it hurt her when researchers infected her cells with viruses and shot them into space? What happened to her sister, Elsie, who died in a mental institution at the age of fifteen? And if her mother was so important to medicine, why couldn’t her children afford health insurance?

Intimate in feeling, astonishing in scope, and impossible to put down, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks captures the beauty and drama of scientific discovery, as well as its human consequences.

Journal Entry 6 by wingeponine38wing at Winchester, Massachusetts USA on Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Released 7 yrs ago (10/22/2013 UTC) at Winchester, Massachusetts USA

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Traveling in the Medicine Chest IV bookbox. Hope it finds another reader!

Journal Entry 7 by wing6of8wing at Silver Spring, Maryland USA on Monday, November 04, 2013
I pulled this out of the Medicine Chest Book Box to read. We studied this case in my Bioethics and the Law class, along with a couple others which were similar. I don't know that I agree with the legal underpinnings of the harvesting of cells without remuneration to the unwitting donor. This book should make for interesting reading -- and I am especially interested since it is a WBN book.

Journal Entry 8 by wing6of8wing at Silver Spring, Maryland USA on Tuesday, May 13, 2014
A good read for anyone interested in medical science or bioethics or just an understanding of race relations and medicine. I knew about some of this story and some of the other research stories told in this book from a class in Bioethics that I took in law school. Still, with the development of the back story and the understanding of who the people are, it makes the way things were done more appalling to say the least. The lack of patient rights in the past -- and the ongoing lack of right to control your tissue once excised -- is a little upsetting and a whole lot staggering. And the fact that things were worse for the disadvantage -- poor, minority, and mentally challenged -- while not surprising is heartbreaking.

The thing that bothered me most about this story was the lack of opportunity and education that was provided to the Lacks family. The abuse suffered by the child Joe who later became Zakkaria is disgusting and what Deborah went through is not much better. With that information, you can understand how no one knew about the hearing problems the kids had until they were adults. A visit to Clover and a conversation with the white side of the family also makes it clear that the disparatiy of opportunity afforded to the races is still an issue today. It was bad enough that they were kept in the dark about what happened to their mother and her cells, but the fact that the poor quality education provided for them would not allow them to understand most of the information they were eventually furnished just sickens me. The way poor Deborah worried about how much pain her mother might have been in when her cells were part of a nuclear explosion is terrible.

While I support the need for medical research and I understand that much of the research leads nowhere, I do think there should be some provision for the people who make an unknowing contribution. With the millions that various researchers make off the HeLa cells, the fact that Henrietta's family cannot afford basic health care is a very poor reflection on the US. A small fun for health care for the familiies of those who contribute important cells and tissue for experimentation seems like a small thing to require. And, for all of us, if the doctor or pathologist uses part of your tissue in research, I think the least that should happen is that the procedure to remove that tissue should be free of charge.

So many things to say about this book but so hard to put them into words. I understand the mistrust the Lacks family has for Johns Hopkins and most doctors, but find it sad that this limits their ability to get help from so mnay who should be providing it. Definitely this is a book I will recommend to others.

Released 6 yrs ago (5/17/2014 UTC) at Gaithersburg City Hall Concert Pavilion And Grounds in Gaithersburg, Maryland USA

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