The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

by Rebecca Skloot | Nonfiction |
ISBN: 1400052173 Global Overview for this book
Registered by tiatia of Fredericksburg, Virginia USA on 4/13/2011
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4 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by tiatia from Fredericksburg, Virginia USA on Saturday, January 21, 2012
A DONATION FROM MY WORK BOOK CLUB . Will be brought to the January 28, 2012 BC in DC meeting in Arlington, VA for the release/swap table.

Journal Entry 2 by Firegirl at Annandale, Virginia USA on Saturday, January 28, 2012
I've heard good things about this. Looking forward to reading about it and I may have another BCer to pass it on to in the future.

Journal Entry 3 by Firegirl at Annandale, Virginia USA on Monday, August 12, 2013
I read this much, much faster than I thought I would. I don't know what I was expecting, exactly -- a somewhat dry crash-course on genetics and DNA research, with a personal story to make it more palatable, perhaps. What this turned out to be was a family's story and science mixed together in a very readable, very thought-provoking book.

I did find myself feeling badly for the Lacks family. They were poorly educated, with little to no understanding of science or medicine. The bits of information they wound up with regarding Henrietta's cells must have been confusing and frightening to them. Without understanding what a cell is, having someone tell you that parts of your mother had been, among other things, injected with diseases like cancer and AIDS could (and did, in this case) cause terrifying confusion. When Henrietta's daughter went looking for answers, she ran into what I have seen a lot in the medical profession: people who either don't know *how* to simplify a concept and/or those whom it doesn't occur to do so. As is mentioned in the book, Henrietta's daughter often needed a dictionary at hand to read simple magazine articles - being handed a genetics textbook as an answer to her questions is a virtually useless gesture. Also, the family's lack of understanding, especially coupled with their poverty, made it totally unsurprising to me to read that some of the family members wanted to get "their share" of profits made from HeLa cells. There is a profound, unfortunate irony that so much money was made off of Ms. Lacks' cells, but her family couldn't afford insurance, medical care, or prescriptions. So, yes, from a personal standpoint, my heart went out to the family.

From a legal standpoint, the medical field and researchers did nothing wrong in their acquisition, use, and sale of HeLa cells. What about ethically? I must admit I'd never thought about "tissue rights" before. I know people have control over what happens to their (or their loved one's) body after death, but what about tissue "scraps" taken in procedures? As I recall, all of the hospitals I've worked in as a nurse have a line on their consent forms that basically says the hospital can do whatever it wants with any leftover bits, but, as I'm coming to understand, that's not required. Should it be? I've talked with a few people since finishing the book and it seems to me that those who are in favor of being able to retain rights to your own living tissue are concerned with one of two things: someone "making money" off their body (and them not getting any of it), and/or concerns about privacy since there is so much one can learn from another person's DNA. I don't share their worries, but I guess I understand them. I do worry about the fact that, If more and more people push to "protect" their tissues, research will surely suffer. I don't have any answers, but this book has definitely made me aware of a potential storm on the horizon.

Recommended.

Journal Entry 4 by Firegirl at Annandale, Virginia USA on Monday, September 02, 2013

Released 5 yrs ago (9/3/2013 UTC) at Annandale, Virginia USA

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Sending out as a RABCK. Enjoy!

Journal Entry 5 by emmejo at Trumansburg, New York USA on Thursday, September 05, 2013
Got this book today. Thank you! I love good scientific narratives, and I've seen a lot of good reviews of this one.

Journal Entry 6 by emmejo at Trumansburg, New York USA on Friday, October 04, 2013
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The scientific information was presented accessibly but comprehensively and with plenty of detail that allowed the reader to keep up with what was being discussed. The focus of the story seemed to be on the human element and the way it was forgotten by eager researchers. So many of the things that upset and frightened Henrietta's family could have been easily averted by doctors being willing and able to explain the facts rather than letting them learn via the sensationalism of the media circus. Just the fact that the living cells were a chunk from her cancer, not part of her body would have helped. There are a lot of fuzzy moral questions raised in this book, and the author admits that most of them don't have an answer.

Journal Entry 7 by emmejo at Trumansburg, New York USA on Friday, February 07, 2014

Released 5 yrs ago (2/6/2014 UTC) at Trumansburg, New York USA

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Sent out as part of The Dating Game.

I hope you don't mind that your double date turned into a quadruple date. I didn't see a point in leaving extra room, and this way you'll have a variety of history to choose from.

Journal Entry 8 by wheepaperclips at Allentown, Pennsylvania USA on Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Aah! I was so excited when I found your box o' books by my front door. Thank you SO MUCH. You are too generous.

Ooh, sciency non-fiction! This will be a good follow-up to The Selfish Gene.

You know, I could actually join the non-fiction VBB now! I didn't have enough non-fiction before because it's not that popular here in the states :-)

Journal Entry 9 by wheepaperclips at Allentown, Pennsylvania USA on Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Released 4 yrs ago (12/9/2014 UTC) at Allentown, Pennsylvania USA

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Sending a wishlist book as a belated birthday gift. I hope you enjoy!

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