A Heartbreaking story that details the illogical justification used by scientists and the market establishment they created to reason away that an individual's biological material is not their own or something they can uniquely own and patent or trademark but instead can only be patented and trademarked by a scientist or corporation (manufactured individual). This woman from America's racial and economic underclass's unique and special biological cells pioneered science and are now sold as the property of a corporation. She died in poverty and her progenitors and spouse struggled and suffered greatly as the medical and science establishment exploited their ignorance while making huge advancements and wealth with the immortal cells of this poor woman without even giving proper public credit or respect.
The book is read in first person and because it is factual, it is easy to confuse the reader for the author. This is especially true when the author does speak.
You probably already know he subject material before reading this review so suffice it to say that you will enjoy the read if you have made it this far.
The book doesn't delve into the topic of expectations of disposal and privacy concerning body tissue. If the laws are as it states in the book, I would certainly be very upset if the same was done to me. Concerns more specific to the plot are the inconsistencies of the stories concerning consent of Henrietta Lacks after the fact. The author admits that many facts were difficult to ascertain but this one is just missing. The story conflicts without any explanation; did she or did she not have issue with the tissue?
Would you have then or now?
I LOVE BOOKS! I have a service business (large salon). 'What are you reading' is heard all day everyday.
Exceptionally well wrought!! A history, biology and genealogical story cleverly wrapped in well narrated format. I truly enjoyed this listen and appreciated the author's painstaking patience with the Lacks family and the in-depth explanation of the HELA cell's science. It's hard to imagine a biology lesson being presented in any better arrangement. Thanks and BRAVO Rebecca!
Henrietta Lacks was a poor black woman in Baltimore who had cancer in the early 1950's. Her cancerous cells had the ability to be cultured and grown - an ability that is not present in most cells. The rare ability for these cells to be grown in culture provided a cell line that was used in the creation of the polio vaccine and numerous other cures. The cells themselves did not provide the cure, the cells provided a means in which researchers could study a disease and develope a cure. The book was written because for years, the identity of the donor of these cells was only known as Hela. Neither Henrietta or anyone in her family received and compensation or, until relatively recently, any notoriety for these cells. The author fairly protrays that, for the era in which these cells were obtained, there was nothing wrong, illegal or underhanded going on. Procedures such as informed consent were non existent in the 1950's. I was left with the feeling that the Lack's family should receive some compensation for Henrietta's cells. Not because they have a legal right to compensation (which is questionable) but because it is the right thing to do.
Although the book is supposed to be about Henrietta, almost half (sometimes seemed like more) of the book is about one of Henrietta's daughters. This may interest those who develop a personal interest in the Lacks clan, but has little to do with the cells and was distracting.
You will be disappointed if you want to learn about the cells themselves, as the author only provides general descriptions and there is little technical information provided...this book is about people. That being said, there are some very good sections where the truly unethical behavior of doctors using these and other cells is described. They are quite disturbing stories.
The last hour of the book is a discussion by the author over the ethics of cells and tissues and who really owns them.
This is partially a biography of Henrietta Lacks who died in 1951 of cancer. It is also a story of medical ethics and science. Reading the story through contemporary eyes I can easily see the injustice of the situation. However, tissue has been taken from me following surgery and other proceedures and used in someway(s) - forever unknown. This was not the Tuskegee syphillis sort of misrepresentation, but the deception (real or imagined; by design or default) had dramatic effects on the family and heirs.
The most moving passages for me involved the adjustments that various family members were forced to make as a result of learning of Ms. Lacks' circumstances. The narrative enabled me to understand the ingredulity and misperceptions linked one to the other.
Other sections relating the ethical issues raised by this situation and the subsequent institutional responses are very timely, contemporary , and important.
Well read, clearly written, and informative. This is a very good book deserving of every listener's attention.
I love to read, but I am time-limited. Audible allows me to keep up with all my favorite authors while on the hiking trail. Thanks, Audible!
As a biologist, I am quite familiar with the story of Henrietta Lacks. As an undergraduate, it was a story we were told in cell biology class. It wasn't until my first bioethics class in graduate school that I became aware of the long-term effects of situations such as Ms. Lacks, her family, and her descendants. This is such an important story for science. BUT it is also an important story for non-scientists, because this is a story about a person's right to know and the importance of transparency and honesty. This is a tale about how easily unintended consequences can truly harm people. The author has created a rich story that is honest, complete, and respectful. The narrators do an amazing job bringing it to life.
I have to say that this is my best ‘listen’ on Audible for 2014. It’s a superbly written and narrated book based on the life and times of Henrietta Lacks. Not only her life, but the religion of science, period of exotic discovery, lack of ethics in medicine, shameful bigotry, and the ultimate victories of the human spirit.
When I came into this book, all I knew was the word HeLa. I knew nothing of the wondrous discoveries that these cancerous cells gave the world or its actual beginnings within a woman of color. The author is to be commended for her long and thoughtful endeavor to publish this fascinating history. The author’s journey took more than a decade and its final reading escaped the woman who should have heard it the most; Deborah Lacks, the daughter of Henrietta. Deborah had labored and toiled to make her mother be known, heard and understood and yet she dies on the evening of that triumph.
Even though Henrietta and her family never achieved the sought after financial gain or any recognition from her immortal cell line whereas many individuals and companies did, we should ever be grateful to a woman that lived in a segregated decade and suffered in death, with gifting humanity of her cells which are even used today to discover remarkable cures.
I have not read the print version, but the audio edition is wonderful to listen too.
My favorite character is Debra, HeLa's daughter. It's evident that it took her a long time to understand HeLa, but she never stopped trying to find out the truth about her mom and her medical condition.
I loved the way Cassandra Campbell and Bahni Turpin took on the southern speech in the audio. They made the story come alive.
The way the speakers captured the raw emotion of Henrietta throughout the book was moving. But I was particularly moved by the hospital scene, just prior to her passing.
I loved the audio version of this book. It made me feel like I actually got to meet the family members.
This is one of those books that I'm so glad I listened to instead of read. I know that there were times that science would've gotten too much and I may have abandoned it. SO GLAD I listened to this book! It's incredible and fascinating. The contribution given unknowingly by one woman has changed research, science and the world. It is both sad and victorious, and yet she will never know of her contributions.
I loved the author's weaving of the scientific side of things with the family and personal side of the story. I am so glad it was highly recommended to me as "one book i should read this summer". I did and I'm glad.
A True Story, often so better than Fiction. How the story was woven from historical to modern day, allowing the family views to the scientiest. It was a wonderful read who I would recommend everyone read. Why? It shows no matter how small, one person can change the world for the better!
Imagine never Knowing your mother. I had that experaince but at least at 18 I had a chance to meet her before she died shortly after. Deborah never had this, was shuffed to a horrible home, beaten and abused. As she emerged in Adult life, this haunted her.
This story allower to get to know her past, her future and bonded a family in one purpose, the get the credit due to one amazing Mother.
The ugly truth behind the Black Communities medical testing. Cruel, Horrible to Heroic at times.
The reader was just fantastic, one of my favorite so far.
The Death of Deborah, especially as explained in the post script. It hits home.
Every Human Matters, have empathy for all. This was a story about a Mother a Daughter new had a chance to know, a Sister that was lost to hear. Had not this book been written, a most wonderful family line would have never been shown the light.