Deana (deana_in_texas) wrote in 50bookchallenge,

Book 24 for 2011

The Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksThe Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is absolutely wonderful! It's really not a difficult read - I sped right through it. it's mostly told like a story, but there is just enough science so that you understand what is going on and why the cells are so important, but not enough science to make you fall asleep reading it.

I had heard of HeLa cells, but for some reason it had never really occurred to me to wonder where they came from. I was really impressed with the author and the amount of work she did for this book, and especially the way she went about it. It was really interesting to learn about Henrietta and her family. Some of the things they had to put up with were just horrifying! Especially when it came to Henrietta's treatment. It amazes me to think doctors actually thought these things were good for their patients -- it makes me wonder what we will think of current medical treatments 50 or even 20 years from now!

It's hard for me to imagine growing up the way they did. I grew up in a relatively poor household in a relatively poor town, but compared to Henrietta and her children, we had it pretty good. It's hard for me to imagine being so set apart from the "real world" and education. And reading about how those poor children were treated after their mother died was so sad - it's no wonder the boys are angry and have criminal records. I found it interesting how Deborah was insulted when someone made a comment about her mother having HPV and therefore must have slept around, but the fact that her mother also had syphilis and gonorrhea are also pretty well known... though the book seems to point to the father as the culprit.

I did find it really sad that Deborah dies before the book is published. After all the work she put in it seems like a cruel fate. But she did say she was happy to know her mother was finally getting some recognition and that her grandchildren are doing well in school and will make something of themselves.

Does anyone know what happened to Clover? Just everyone left? Or there was like a hurricane or something that destroyed the town? Just found it weird that all the buildings had just vanished.

The ethical dilemmas posed in this book are difficult. As a researcher myself, I know how difficult it is to get participants for studies when they have to volunteer for it. And medical studies are ESPECIALLY important. And it's not as if Henrietta had planned for her cells to be special and did something on purpose to grow them that way. Then again, they were a part of HER body, and it seems like people should get some say in things that were once a part of them. But it's also true that her cells have been used for things she may have been morally against, like creating weapons or designer children. Although I plan to donate whatever parts of my body researchers may be interested in after my death, I can definitely see an argument for not forcing everyone else to do the same.

I'll be getting my own copy of this one.

View all my reviews

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