Heard about this book on NPR's 'Fresh Air.' The story of Henrietta's 'HeLa' cells are mind blowing, the way they have impacted our lives in so many ways. This story really becomes the story of Henrietta's family, who are unfortunately extremely naive in terms of the impact her cells have had on medical history. One feels very badly for them, and frankly, whenever I have to sign a concent form in a Dr.'s office, I'm super sensitive to any verbiage stating my cells can be used for commercial purposes. The bummer about this is the amount of (boring) detail the author gets into tracing the legacy and history of cell culturing in our society. Great research, but at times reads like a science book.
i worked in a lab years ago as a medical student
i never thought to ask where the HELA cells came from
some bored professor said " helen lane "
to care for the indigent and uneducated is wearying
their messy world collides with precise clinical science
the culture of a university hospital only makes it harder
ms. skloot endured much from the lacks family
reminds me of a long friday night in the ER
her persistence and sincerity finally win them over
the researchers just wanted a cell line that didn't die
the lacks family just wanted to know what happened to mom
ms. skloot's humanity makes that collision memorable
I loved this book so much I listened to it twice! It was sad, but so interesting. I also changed my mind about my view of legal/medical issues. It brought so much forward that I never considered to even exist in the discussion of patient rights and medical research.
I am not a lawyer or medical professional, but I would say anyone with an interest in either field would find this fascinating. I am not sure who would NOT find this interesting.
This was picked by another book club member and I was dreading reading it because I though it would be so dry and unimportant. Boy, I was WRONG!
Avid reader of classics and fiction, history and well-written genre novels. Music lover and huge audiobook fan.
This is one of the best audiobooks I have heard in a long time. FIrst of all the readers are so wonderful it transforms the experience into theater. The story is about science and ethics but is even more the story of a family and how it is affected by the discovery that the cells of a mother that died in 1951 go on living today. The cell donor was 29 when she died leaving five children. Her cell line was the first to be kept alive and replicating after her death from cervical cancer in 1951. Apparently her family didn't know anyone had taken a tissue sample. Her children lacked the money to visit the doctor but their dead mother's cells went to the moon and were part of the discovery of a polio vaccine and many other important medical discoveries. It is stunning to see how badly the subjects of medical research were treated such a short time ago. THis book would be an engaging story for people with many divergent interests. Highly recommended."
I wasn't sure if I was going to like this book but to tell the truth, it's probably the best book I've read in ten years, which is appropriate since it took ten years to write. When you're finished with it, Check out the WNYC RadioLab Podcast on Itunes (from npr) which has some of the actual recordings Skloot made with Debra, including the beautiful sequence between Debra and her cousin singing to sooth her. The episode is called Famous Tumors. I have listened to Radiolab for years and had read the book almost three months before Radiolab did a story on it. I knew Skloot was a good writer, but her power of description is so amazing that when I heard the tapes it was EXACTLY how I had pictured it in my head. How many writers can you say that about?
I know it seems to be a book about boring old science, and perhaps in the beginning that's what Skloot might have thought would happen, but the actual story is so rich and beautiful it's difficult to put into words how thoroughly amazing it really is.
Do yourself a favor, download this book. You won't regret it.
I loved this book.
I usually listen to history and science with a few novels thrown in for balance. Occasionally I listen to a mystery. This was all 4!
The narrator weaves together three stories (by my count) into one book. The juxtaposition of the stories of 1) Henrietta and her family, 2) the author's research, including interactions with Henrietta's family, and 3) the scientific breakthroughs and fallbacks because of Hela cells helps each story to bring out the strengths in the other and to cause the listener to become more invested in the story.
This was such a great story. The only complaint that I have is that the medical information was very repetitive. Learning about the contribution a black woman unknowningly made was eye opening for me. I would recommend this book to friends.
What an eye opener. The history of our discovery and exploitation of genetic material is fascinating and more complex than I had imagined. Skloot covers the subject from all angles.The chronological and technical aspect is informative. The ethical observations raised through the study of the Lacks family are both clinical and personal. As we race to find cures for disease and better understand ourselves at the genetic level, we forget that it couldn't be possible without the most important component of the research process - human genetic material.
Worth a second listen. Thank you Ms Skloot.
I'm a country potter, gardener, flute player and tin tinker living with my husband, an electrical engineer & cabinet maker.
This book is worth 2 listens. What of our bodies do we own? How can we say "liberty and justice for all" in a country where corporations own the genes and even the tissue of our brains that allow formation of the words? The author brings Henrietta's family into focus and also provides a great deal of medical and legal background for HeLa cells.
Narrated very well. Every African American needs to know the examples of violation. This is just one of many that was well researched and brought to the public through barriers. Skloot is dedicated.